Stinging Tales

News TV goes underground and ‘breaks’ stories.

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Published: September 21, 2013 1:51 am

News TV goes underground and ‘breaks’ stories.

For once,Times Now,which likes to pose as the single-window source of all breaking news,actually had something to crow about. Srinjoy Chowdhury’s revelation of a Cabinet Committee on Security note suggested that the government was eager to dilute the liability of nuclear vendors prior to his meeting with Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Session. A fine story,except that in its eagerness to claim coup,the channel neglected to inform the viewer that not only did NDTV 24×7 also have wind of the story,the bigger story within which it fitted had been the front page lead of The Hindu that morning.

The allegation that the Attorney General’s legal opinion could be used to bypass the Atomic Energy Commission was already out there. In print,which is much slower off the blocks than TV. While it could not claim an exclusive,the channel posed as the exclusive owner of the story by repeatedly saying that the government would have to respond to Times Now.

Altogether,it has been an incredible week,beginning with the unbelievable vision of Manmohan Singh walking among the masses in Muzaffarnagar. The Prime Minister has become a protected species,rarely sighted in the wild on Indian soil. If he got a bit of air and exercise,we would have a more supple and responsive government,so one cannot understand why a peevish Times Now had to go on about this being a photo-op.

The week ended with the Ministry of Defence finally issuing a statement on the evolving VK Singh story. And a BJP MLA was arrested for inciting the Muzaffarnagar riots. This,after the hungama outside the Assembly on Wednesday,when the police stood about in disconsolate huddles while TV cameras encouraged BJP leaders to dare the government in passive-aggressive terms. That day,some channels,including Headlines Today,had speculated that the government was trying to avert a spectacle by waiting a couple of days for the Assembly session to end. They seem to have been right.

However,the very same Headlines Today and its sister channel,Tez,did a sting on some hapless policemen in UP to reveal why there had been no arrests over the riots. It takes a sting to reveal what everyone knows already? And doing a sting on the police,reliably valuable sources,is quite distinct from stinging Bangaru Laxman in the act. The policemen,who were transferred right away,have probably learned to be less open with journalists.

Meanwhile,Zee ran an even more useless sting on the Metro Rail in Delhi. It revealed that stations contain little rooms deep underground which no one ever needs. Its reporter crossed the palms of lowly staff with silver to rent these rooms by the hour,allegedly for purposes that dare not breathe their name. Triumphantly,the channel announced that it had rented a room in the Race Course Road station. If Manmohan Singh had rented the room,fresh back from his Muzaffarnagar outing,it would have been deliciously bizarre news. But Zee renting rooms? Plain boring.

In between,it was diverting to see ETNow announcing an early Diwali on Dalal Street and Bloomberg UTV showing a “Sensex heat map” which was a soothing shade of green all over,like hospital drapes. Absolutely no flames licking anywhere on its grid. Just a week ago,television was beaming black gloom into our homes. All this joy was courtesy the Fed,which has now coined the mysterious “taper”,over and above “quantitative easing”,which we did not understand either. Sweet jargoning for the government — as always,it had blamed the recent blip on the foreign hand.

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

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