It’s been an oddity of a week. On Sunday, all news channels bombarded us with “Virat’s Surgical Strike” (News India) as India beat Pakistan at cricket — all, that is, barring Zee, which said it would boycott Pakistani cricket and added, rather obscurely, that its news channels would support only “actual heroes”. Whereupon it set off in pursuit of Pakistan, across the border instead of on the cricket field. And, even as Star Sports promoted the Champions Trophy match with its “Sabse Bada Moh” advert, Zee hit back with “Sabse Bada Droh” — you know “woh” they mean.
Meanwhile, Times Now went after crime in UP where “Goonda Raj thrives” and India Today had “Operation Romeo: (Is) CM Yogi’s pet project going rogue?” — this, when Adityanath has been the most celebrated chief minister on air. Not to be left behind, Republic went rogue, pardon the expression, on the Sriram Sene and the Bajrang Dal, asking hard questions of the “Fringe”, and India Today discussed what it called “BJP’s meat hypocrisy” as it plays out in the north-eastern states.
Then, on Wednesday, after farmers’ protests in Madhya Pradesh led to the death of five farmers, possibly in police firing, the same channels led the onslaught: “BJP reels from farmer backlash” (Times Now), a “jai kisan” “litmus test” for the BJP (India Today), the “role of police in firing confirmed” (Republic). Farmers’ protests in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh dominated news headlines throughout the day, but it isn’t as if they began yesterday, it’s just that they have been given short shrift by news channels obsessed with the army, Kashmir and Pakistan, not necessarily in that order. Will the violence and deaths now lead to ultra-big debates on evening prime time? Let’s wait and see.
It’s been a long, long time since so many questions were raised on these channels about the BJP’s governance — even in states — or its fringe elements. Which is not to say that the usual agenda and suspects were not relentlessly pursued alongside: On Tuesday, it was the CPM’s turn to be called out for questioning General Rawat’s comments on the army in Kashmir (Times Now, India Today). Speaking of agendas, NDTV made news for all the wrong reasons when anchor Nidhi Razdan and BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra got into an unnecessary, unseemly and unbecoming row over the channel’s alleged “agenda” (Left, Right and Centre) with Razdan asking Patra to leave “her” show.
Worse followed when its promoters Prannoy and Radhika Roy were raided by the CBI, prompting Ravish Kumar to dwell darkly on the dangers of “dar ki rajdhani” for the media (NDTV India). The oddest news of the week came from India News and Zee Business: The former was incensed by videos on social media revealing “plastic rice” — perhaps from China — that bounced when squeezed into a ball, while the latter discovered videos of fake eggs, also on social media — again allegedly from China. News Nation went to Ujjain where it caught Pyare Mohan chomping green and red chillies — for a Guinness World Record?
DD News showed us Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while other news channels carried its live feed to cover the launch of the GSLV MkIII. Told you it was an odd week. Other oddities? Well, what would you say about a TV commercial to promote mutual fund investments which shows that other gentleman’s game in progress — golf — when one player advises another to invest in MFs and the latter doesn’t seem to know a thing about MFs. Someone who plays golf doesn’t know mutual funds? Decidedly odd. No odder than the Vrat Ayurdeva item on haemorrhoids, more indelicately known as piles (EPIC). While the information was extremely useful for those who suffer from this painful and uncomfortable ailment, the graphic which accompanied the discussion with doctors was, er, too graphic and in poor taste, tracking the movement of faeces through the intestines.
And while this has nothing to do with anything, the accents of actors playing British characters on shows like EPIC’s Bandits of British India and Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Life OK) sound about as British as Punjabi. Very odd — and unconvincing —indeed.