THE week before this one (this columns weekly cycle begins on Saturday) was crushingly disappointing for TV news. Try to remember: love wasnt lathi-charged and taxes werent tweaked. The week saw a major-incident-free V Day and a stimulus-free B Day. Two shocks in three days for TV news. The strain showed.
NDTV was so upset on Budget Day. The biggest crisis in 20 years,may be 50 years,and the government does nothing,nothing theres was no mistaking the angry disappointment in NDTV anchors post-budget assessment.
CNN-IBN looked more puzzled than angry. It was perhaps to maintain that thematic consistency that it allowed the BJPs Kirit Sommaiya to propound an economic thesis that defeated any attempt to make sense of it. Puzzling too was the insistent attempt to get ex-RBI governor Bimal Jalan to advise politicians. But I loved the TV talent show-style points cards CNN-IBNs Budget panelists were asked to hold up. That was just so TV news,telling us boring chaps that the line between Indian Idol and the Indian economy may be far thinner than we think.
Strangely,or perhaps not strangely at all,when the government did do something this week,news channels didnt exhibit the opposite and equal reaction. Nor,from what I saw on NDTV and CNN-IBN at least,was there any political analysis of the government seemingly changing its position in a weeks time. Post-interim budget,government officials had loftily explained to the media that there were enough stimuli already,via the earlier packages and the fiscal deficit.
Even NDTV Profit and CNBC were reticent on the issue. Half the time spent on explaining Pranab Mukherjees cement duty cuts could have been devoted to a quick interrogation of the official logic.
Why not get a government economic administrator and ask him or her explain the timing behind the third stimulus? Mind you,the day before the third stimulus was announced was O Day. TV news was exhausted,perhaps. The optimal amount for all kinds of comments on Oscars for Slumdog has already been exceeded. I will only observe that CNN-IBN calling AR Rahman the Mozart of Madras shows us why TV news has its own distinctive character.
These small exhibits tell us so much more about this rich medium than large,somewhat obvious examples. You cant get a more obvious example than TV news on Valentines Day. I had made a clear decision on my consumption pattern. For B Day,mostly English news channels,for V Day,mostly Hindi.
11.45 am on V Day,and Hindi TV news still didnt have a Muthalik-style hungama to report. But when news doesnt come to Hindi TV news,Hindi TV goes out and makes news.
Star News interviewed couples,asking them to share whats precious between them with us. Aaj Tak asked a daughter to ask her mom and dad what love really means. It also broke the story of a couple for whom tenderness means telepathy he got her a rose,wow,she got him roses,he got her a box of chocolates,incredible,she got one for him,ditto with wine. Zee News got college students in Bangalore to sing for love. NDTV India sent out a male reporter with a rose.
But India TV….what was India TV doing? 12.15 pm on V Day,and India TV had chosen Sanjay Dutts political future over lovers.
Is India TV turning,you know,serious? Thats a crisis Indian journalism may not be prepared for.