Actors Om Puri and Mita Vashisht recently walked out of a news debate during a discussion on the ouster of Pakistani artistes from India after tension between India and Pakistan increased following a spree of terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.
This incidents raise two conflicting arguments — either the TV debates have turned too targeted and certain moderators do not allow significant chance for panelists to put their point across or panelists are at a fault for walking out when they know they are in for a sharp and competitive debate.
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Indian TV news debates have become imbalanced where the moderator pushes an argument rather than allowing different viewpoints to prevail over each other and panelists who are supposed to fight for their argument indecorously walk out.
The debates filled with jingoistic outbursts are unlike anything that can be called an ideal debate ought to be, nonetheless, it catches the fancy of a huge audience that religiously follows them. This audience relates their frustration with the lambasting anchor and draws a certain satisfaction when that anchor corners a person from an authority position or the creme of the society. The trend often bears witness to walkouts from panelists who just give up when they are not able to counter the moderator on their repeated cross questioning.
To be fair, the panelists are also not unaware about what they are in for; they know the format and that they are participating in a sharp and competitive debate where a loose argument won’t cut it. For years we have been witnessing the same panelists reappearing on the same channels fighting with the same TV anchors for not allowing them ‘enough time’ to speak. Also, the same TV anchors have been aggressively cornering panelists for stonewalling during debates.
In the past several panelists have simply walked out of debates when debating was no longer possible. The list includes the likes of Kiran Bedi, BJP member Nupur Sharma and several Kashmiri separatists. The argument is simple. Make TV news debates more participative and don’t participate if you know you can’t counter the host.