The special thing about some TV specials

In your correspondent’s not-so-short list of news TV favourites are Aaj Tak specials on Dawood Ibrahim.

Written by Saubhik Chakrabarti | Published:March 14, 2009 12:23 am

In your correspondent’s not-so-short list of news TV favourites are Aaj Tak specials on Dawood Ibrahim. There wasn’t an abundant supply of substantive and new information in these shows. But there were compensations. After a while,endless repeats of file footage on Dawood started to have a mild hypnotic effect. You fondly chuckled on hearing the anchor’s declamations. You felt the energy. The drama touched you. But there has been no Dawood special for a while. Or,I may have missed a show or two.

So,there has been a bit lacking in my encounters with news TV. True,Aaj Tak reporting last week that a bull has been killed in a police encounter in an UP town instantly entered your correspondent’s list of TV news favourites. The bull apparently was blocking traffic and the police,other means of persuasion having failed,had taken what American espiocrats might have called the course of extraordinary rendition. This can be reported straight. It becomes special when you report it as bull killed in police encounter.

But it wasn’t until I watched this week Aaj Tak’s analysis of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s future plans that my withdrawal symptoms about the Dawood specials was addressed adequately.

Putting together statements from an ex-deputy US National Security advisor and assorted US officials,Aaj Tak gravely announced America is in LeT’s cross hairs. Now,you could have summarised the statements from ex and current spooks and let that summary scroll at the bottom of your screen. Or an anchor could have paraphrased the quotes as a minor headline and be done with it. But what would be the point of that? How does that begin to compare to a special?

The special treatment comes from (a) stretching a bit of information heroically,(b) thereby creating the context in which not-so-unusual Intelligence assessments can acquire the status of a big story and,(c) file footage playing in an almost continuous loop. Actually,the hypnotic effect from the last was even stronger this time because footage of ‘LeT commandos’ spot jumping,crawling under barbed wire and going through other basics of ‘course training’ has been all over news TV for a long,long time.

I can get as fond of this as I am of the Dawood specials,or even variations of this. A repeat of 9/11,Aaj Tak asked,doing a special on a US Senate committee briefing of some of America’s senior intelligence officials. The American legislative system places great emphasis on getting briefed by the country’s espiocrats. So material for specials should be abundant.

You are constrained only by your imagination. Times Now sombrely deliberated on the possibility of a coup in Pakistan as the ‘Long March’ began. We were asked to recall Ayub Khan and ‘Operation Gibraltar’. We are asked to remember that dealing with Pakistani generals have been ‘easier’ than dealing with Pakistani civilian leaders. There was heavy emphasis on civilian rulers’ unreliability. Where was this ‘analysis’ leading to,I wondered a little worriedly? Thankfully,in the end it didn’t particularly lead to anywhere.

saubhik.chakrabarti@expressindia.com

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