Tele Scope: Hooked to the telly

What is it that we gain from listening to the likes of Abhishek Manu Singhvi (Congress) and Sambit Patra (BJP) discussing Sonia Gandhi’s birthmark?

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published:March 19, 2015 4:22 am
Sonia Gandhi What is it that we precisely gain from listening to the likes of Abhishek Manu Singhvi (Congress) and Sambit Patra (BJP) discussing Sonia Gandhi’s birthmark.

When will we, the viewers, turn around and say, we’ve had enough? When will we switch off the TV remote control and find other ways to waste our time? What kind of addiction is this that we cannot stop ourselves from watching the same TV news debates every evening? Should we even dignify them with the term “debates”?

What is it that we precisely gain from listening to the likes of Abhishek Manu Singhvi (Congress) and Sambit Patra (BJP) discussing Sonia Gandhi’s birthmark (To The Point, Headlines Today): How it came to be on the proforma filled out by her (Patra), not by her (Singhvi), if not by her then by someone very close who would know the location of said birthmark (Patra), you can find that information in an encyclopaedia (Singhvi).

What exactly do we learn from Ashwini Upadhyay (BJP) suggesting to Salman Soz (Congress) on Samay that Delhi Police was perhaps checking on Rahul Gandhi because he has been missing for this entire Parliament session, “and you don’t know where he is”. “Oh so you admit you are checking on him?” (Soz).

Of what value is it to hear Ratan Sharada, described by NDTV 24×7 as an “RSS ideologue”, disclose that he is disturbed to hear Julio Ribeiro say he feels “insecure” in his own country — “don’t we feel insecure when children go without food in Kerala during Ramadan?” Or Sadia Dehlvi say that is a great deal of “toxic” talk going around — isn’t that what we listen to every night? Toxic talk?)

And what precisely did Patra (sorry, but by his own admission, he’s on air every night) contribute to our knowledge by saying that secularism is “ingrained” in the fabric of India and that during Narendra Modi’s tenure as chief minister of Gujarat, “no one in Gujarat was ever threatened”? All it did was make Ruchir Joshi recall the riots of 2002 and to “threaten” the fabric of secularism right there in the TV studio. (Left, Right & Centre, NDTV 24×7)

Let us not even go to the VHP’s Bansal quoting, misquoting Mother Teresa only to have Karan Thapar quote, misquote Jesus Christ (Headlines Today). Why must we constantly listen to people of different persuasions (re)dress history according to the cut of their cloth?

Which brings us to Sharad Yadav’s figure of speech (IBN7) and the body of his argument as to why he doesn’t need to apologise for his remarks in Parliament regarding women with “saanvli” skin colour. This is the theatre of the absurd. First, courtesy TV news channels, we had to repeatedly hear his tasteless comments during a serious debate on the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha on the dark skin of Mahatma Gandhi, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and the beauty of the south Indian female form. Bad only became worse when TV news demanded an explanation from him. He was delighted to be in the limelight and expounded his views on the complexion complex of Indians, as well as the fault lines of language (IBN7). According to his theory of linguistics, when you say “beautiful body” it sounds like a compliment, but if you say, “sundar shareer”, it is labelled misogynist and insulting. In what way has this expanded or deepened our understanding of colour, race or gender relations?

With this level of discourse on TV news every night, why not listen to Navjot Singh Sidhu and Gaurav Kapoor conduct a World War (Zee News) instead? At least they don’t expect to be taken seriously. When they talk brickbats and balls you know there is nothing sexist about it.

Sad that evening primetime does TV news such an injustice. During the day, news channels cover the news of the day and often do a very good job of it. But nobody’s watching then. When we do watch, in the evening, there’s no news except on DD News. Hindi news channels run a superfast train — the kind PM Modi wants for us — with 200 news items in two minutes or some such. That derails any serious effort to convey the day’s events. The English news channels don’t even bother to try. They believe we are not interested in the news, only “toxic” views.

Isn’t it time to prove them wrong? Go on, switch off that TV.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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