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Monday, July 23, 2018

Bundles of Noise

Indian news channels have a thing for cacophony

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Published: May 18, 2013 3:28:35 am

A month on,as CNN’s ‘Situation Room’ looks back at the Boston bombings and the shootout in the suburb of Watertown,the unnerving thing is that no one is screaming. If the incident had happened in India,and if the alphabets ‘IBN’ had followed ‘CNN’,the air in the studio would have been gunmetal blue with affronted dignity. Over at the competition,the air quality would have been even worse,with unacceptable levels of suspended particulate matter. Times Now would have looked back on the incident through the fog of war and a mist of blood,and demanded hot pursuit on all fronts,including Aksai Chin and Ground Zero.

Are different perceptions of the

audience at work here? Does CNN

visualise a human viewer while its Indian peers feel compelled to pander to the passions of some kind of imaginary

monster? Or do structurals matter in less than obvious ways? Indian producers seem to regard the studio show as the backbone of their operations,which wraps up the events of the day in a noisy,wriggly bundle. It saves money and with our population problem,there are

always more than enough people willing to sound off about everything. In Hindi,we call this the “cheap and best” way.

The CNN show,which tracks the endless craziness of American society,records mostly on the street. The studio segments are very short individual interviews,never crowd scenes,and there is no room for high feelings. Rather,there is space for reason and retrospection. For instance,Watertown was clearly a situation in which the police barely retained control,but there was no attempt to blame them. John DeCarlo,who teaches criminal justice at the University of New Haven,spoke of “contagious shooting”,an excess which would have occasioned an enquiry commission had it happened in an Indian city. Another specialist revealed that a police vehicle had come under friendly fire,and a home-owner pointed out bullet holes in his walls,courtesy the police. Moving on to the creepy Castro case in Cleveland,the programme allowed the counsel for the defence to demonise the coverage as “the media trial of a monster… without knowing the whole story.” Programme anchor Anderson Cooper repeatedly

accentuated the positive — his show was an inquiry,not an indictment. Its point was to help understand these incidents and prevent action replays.

Within hours,in a permanently anticipated action replay in India,Arnab Goswami was declaring that as always,the nation wanted to know. The Delhi Police’s plan for cosy private chats with the three cricketers arrested for spot fixing was clearly suspect. And what need was there for regular courts when the highest court was on air? “Let them face the journalists!” he shouted,bemusing his guest Syed Kirmani,who started petitioning the judiciary in absentia for 12-year sentences while complaining

simultaneously about the lack of transparency,as if the courts have something to hide. Loving this strange insistence on proceedings on camera rather than in camera,Goswami pleaded,“Don’t go away,Mr Kirmani!” But regretfully,

he had to go tell other channels about how better family values would cure

spot fixing.

Meanwhile,in Mumbai,as Sanjay Dutt set off for a long stay at Arthur Road,Times Now ran a band claiming exclusive footage,though the said footage showed a forest of TV cameras ogling precisely what the Times Now camera was ogling: Dutt’s opaque car window. But even so,

in a rare role reversal that day,the front pages were so thickly encrusted with triumphalist pictures of Tamil Nadu’s amma that it was relatively pleasant to get the news from TV.

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