News TV switches off the world. And reduces election coverage to tracking of celebrity candidates.
On Tuesday, the Russian president declared Crimea to be a part of Russia. He thanked India for being “restrained and objective”. The US and other Western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia. Crimea has been, undoubtedly, the biggest and most important news story in the world over the last week, barring the continuing search for the missing MH370 — although if you were to watch CNN International and BBC World, you might believe the trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa for the alleged murder of his girlfriend is right up there with the calm takeover of a territory belonging to another country and the mysterious disappearance of an aeroplane full of passengers.
But if you watch Indian Hindi and English news channels, you would think that the electoral fortunes of former army chief V.K. Singh and actress Kirron Kher should be our primary concern. Or whether that man Arvind Kejriwal dares test the waters of the Ganges in Varanasi. Or the meaning of Narendra Modi’s candidature from there. Or who’s got a ticket to ride and who hasn’t (Suresh Kalmadi, that’s who) in the Lok Sabha elections.
All of these received undue speculation on news TV. Watched in vain on Tuesday (prime-time
8 pm, 9 pm) for a cogent, thoughtful discussion on the implications of Russia’s aggressive behaviour and an analysis of India and China’s positions on the crisis. The all-consuming passion for the forthcoming general election dominates the news and may well bring in higher viewership, but should that be the sole yardstick for deciding on news selection?
While Crimea was largely ignored, the Henderson-Brooks report on the 1962 India-China conflict found airtime even if it was the customary war of words. Speaking of war, why is it that the World Twenty20 Championships in Bangladesh are being promoted like a clash of religions? The promo currently on air has a game between India and Pakistan in progress, in which men with beards and skullcaps are seen supporting Pakistan (they may or may not be Pakistanis) while Kapil Dev and clean shaven, bare-headed gentleman root for India. Given the recent incident at a Meerut university with Kashmiri students, this typecasting is an infelicitous choice for a promo, wouldn’t you say?
Varanasi was very much on view Tuesday, as Barkha Dutt sat decorously on a boat on the edge of the holy river and conducted a show devoted to Modi and the city (The Buck Stops Here, NDTV 24×7). It was great to be out of the studio and listen continued…