The ever-sharp Tez channel has honed its morning astrology programme into Rajyog, a segment which examines electoral fortunes. Yesterday, its astrologer reported a powerful conjunction between the horoscopes of Narendra Modi and the BJP, which makes his swearing-in almost inevitable. Yes, the BJP has a horoscope. Maybe your microwave has one too, since it was born at a definite, measurable point in time and space, even if it was a production line?
But the conjunction has raised a megawave in the media, at least — on TV, in print, on the radio and the internet, on bus stops, on autorickshaws, on saffron caps on the distressingly bald heads of storefront mannequins. So much Moditva invited the two questions which Indians traditionally ask when faced by impressive phenomena: How much does it cost? And where’s the money coming from?
The tsunami swept everything away and if you came up for air, you were startled to see the rest of the world’s media calmly going about its business. Well, kicking the competition in the tonsils, actually. Like, Al Jazeera has been jeering at CNN for breathlessly going at the story of the lost Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Accusing the news TV pioneer of “reporting fact-based fiction”, it’s actually Marwan Bishara, host of the channel’s Empire programme, going at the revenue-attractive infotainment of CNN president Jeff Zucker (who has, by the way, killed the 9 pm talk show slot). The devastation is extensive and even Peter Arnett is collaterally damaged.
But by staying riveted on MH370, CNN has recovered from a long slump and has been gaining eyeballs on the tube and the net like never before. An interesting aside: at the recent launch of a book by a media figure, one’s jaw fell like a trap door to hear a fairly prominent journalist say that MH370 was not being reported in the Western media because the toll was almost completely Asian. Really, we don’t keep up.
The line between the two media is so thin, especially in well-connected societies, that the Financial Times is gaining a visual presence without bothering to invest in a TV channel. Wonder why they don’t, though, since they have a studio offering impressive panoramic views of London, of the sort which we were wont to see framing the exuberant halo of Lord Desai. Their videos offer the same views, and I enjoyed one anchored by investment columnist John Authers, in which he let BlackRock chief investment strategist and after-hours karateka Russ Koesterlich tell a Western audience why investing in the Fragile Five remains a good idea, why risk needs to be limited by sectoral prudence, and why the name of the bloc is ironic, since it was coined when it began to recover. Indeed, the rupee has recovered more than half of what it bled in the recession, as Authers mentioned.
It’s illuminating to see us reflected in the eyes of the foreign investors that our media is always on about, hazarding guesses about their nature and cultural practices like interstellar anthropologists. FT has an app for Samsung smart TVs but pointing your browser at video.ft.com is just as good. Don’t blunder into FTVideo.com, though. It showcases women bodybuilders.
But this election has been so insistently tom-tommed that it’s impossible to keep the din out of your head. A click of the remote brings you back to the three worthies of the Samajwadi Party — Mulayam Singh Yadav, Azam Khan and serial hate-speaker Abu Azmi — each trying to dive lower than the other. And back to Modi, who has been used to sell everything from bikes to banians. Incidentally, the Tez astrologer who predicted Modi’s accession also said that Scorpios are brushed off easily, and hinted at a short term. If Murli Manohar Joshi’s vedic scientists were still around, they would have dealt with him. But never mind, they’ll be back.
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