Telescope: Breathless over Salman

TV news kept its promise to give viewers carpet coverage of the verdict, relegating all else.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published: May 7, 2015 12:00 am
Salman Khan verdict, Salman Khan case, Salman Khan news, Salman Khan being Human, Over the years, the Salman Khan narrative has shifted from Being Bad Boy to Being Human.

Salman Khan emerged from the sessions court in Mumbai. Hundreds of TV news reporters rushed towards him like a swarm of bees, the mikes in their hands waiting to sting him. “Judge ne apna faisla suna diya, aapko kaisa lag raha hai?”

No, it didn’t happen quite like that but it could have: this is so often the first question TV news asks in every situation. The coverage of the Salman hit-and-run case, immediately after the verdict had found him “GUILTY” (as Times Now and Headlines Today stamped on footage of Khan outside his Galaxy Apartments home), showed us why people in Nepal want the Indian media to leave, and why Delhi’s chief minister demands its (preposterous) public trial.

First, speed before sense: the DD News reporter sped along but didn’t take us with him. Perhaps the noise outside the courtroom garbled his voice. On India TV, at least one reporter was gasping because he had neglected to breathe while listing out Khan’s “guilty” actions. Meanwhile, India TV and Aaj Tak headlined Khan’s reaction to the verdict — Salman cries, they cried out.

Zee News was rather like a soap opera. The anchor described Salman’s previous flirtations with jailhouse rock: “He has been to jail in Jodhpur, he has stayed there” (like it was a hotel?). Then came this: “Inside the court, the judge told the superstar the sentence could be 10 years. Did he have anything to say? Salman’s eyes turned red, he didn’t speak. Once he was found guilty, he felt unwell.” Now, how did Zee News see the colour or his eyes or check his physiological condition?

Times Now reported that there were disruptions in the courtroom by “people who are not desirable” as well as those who are “overheated”. Huh?

On Tuesday evening, most news channels had promised viewers carpet coverage of the Salman verdict throughout Wednesday. They kept their word. After the verdict, they spent a few hours speculating on the sentence: one year, two years… That there was other news being made elsewhere did not bother them: for instance, Sonia Gandhi was speaking in the Lok Sabha (reading out a speech) — a rarity. Saw the live telecast of her speech on only NDTV 24×7 (and of course Lok Sabha TV); the others stayed with the “major” story of the day (Rajdeep Sardesai on Headlines Today) — Salman Khan.

So what have we here? Excessive coverage, incoherence, sensationalism, melodrama, creative journalism and questionable news priorities. Much of which we saw in the coverage of the earthquake in Nepal — which was rather like the coverage of last year’s Jammu and Kashmir floods. As reported in last week’s column, the coverage was over the top — continuous, with some channels fielding a dozen reporters (Times Now), many of them at a loss for breath and words as they ran for soundbytes; sensational headlines: “6000 DEAD” (ABP), “Aftershocks reverberated” (Headlines Today), “Bhayanak Bhukamp” (ABP).There was “exclusive” footage (CNN-IBN), microphones thrust into faces like a Floyd Mayweather punch. And not a little jingoism led by DD News, which celebrated India’s great humanitarian effort with long lists of the aid extended (remember two tonnes of biscuits?). Cannot recall seeing any rescue operations by Nepali forces.

Of course, there was plenty of good coverage but, nevertheless, Nepalis have asked the Indian media to go home. TV news channels may be mystified, even hurt, by this rejection, after they made such a herculean effort to cover the earthquake’s impact.

Almost tempted to ask them, “Ab aapko kaisa lag raha hai?”

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More From Shailaja Bajpai
    May 7, 2015 at 3:15 pm
    Now-a-days news channels in India only focus on content that entertains the m. They have become TRP centric. Such news channels use human emotions and sentiments for entertaining the public so that they can generate more revenue out of it. Editors and journalists are not concerned about the negative impact created by promoting such news on the minds of people. They do not even bother about the image of our country in global media. Here, I would like to share one personal experience. A friend of mine lives in USA since past 15 years. The day after the Nirbhaya incident, when he went to his office, his colleagues asked him, "Are all Indians like this?" He was so upset after hearing that comment. I know and understand that people in our country love to hear gossips. But, as media, it is your responsibility towards the society to show the facts. If you just like to entertain people, why don't you become actors instead of journalists?
    1. A
      Anuradha Kalhan
      May 8, 2015 at 3:37 pm
      Who said free compeion is good for quality? The electronic media is digging its own grave but by the time it gets there it would have caused considerable damage to the society it serves. No doubt the TRP race is disastrous for quality and content. But journalistic training and basic education of many of TV reporters and anchors is questionable. Even most basic norms of the profession are thrown to wind!!
      1. g
        May 7, 2015 at 11:40 am
        If a farmer dies then it is not a news. But when Rahul visits the farmer's house may be after ,5 years then his visit becomes news.
        1. I
          May 7, 2015 at 8:49 am
          Our news channels have learnt nothing from the time they thrust mikes at an ailing Amitabh Bachhan on a stretcher ! They need to be pulled up, rebuked, disciplined etc. Having a camera and a mic or a studio does not make one a journalist or an editor - knowledge of the subject, sensitivity to a situation and an analytical mindset are primary requisites. But then, Arnab and his ilk seem to not know these basics.
          1. T
            May 7, 2015 at 9:06 am
            totally agree with the article. This 24X7 TV news and even newspapers have become a nuisance, they do not respect anybody. I saw videos in which reporters were constantly obstructing army personnel who were trying to rescue people in immediate need of istance. The look on Nepali faces was sheer disgust. Its high time indian journalists start behaving themselves or no one will welcome them
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