May 19, 2009 11:14:57 pm
Times Now was news TVs third front on Decision Day. You never thought it would turn out the best performance. But you never thought it would be quite as bad as it turned out to be. Two or three of Times Now panelists deserve some sympathy. They,when allowed,made intelligent interventions. But they were like the seats CPM won in Bengal you had to really concentrate your mind to spot them and they couldnt change the overall story one bit.
My expectations of news TV are pegged low. The reason Times Now comfortably breached that on Saturday was assiduously amateurish anchoring. Just one small example: Ashwani Kumar of the Congress was asked four times whose support the Congress would take to make up the small distance to 272 Kumar said four times he cant say because he isnt privy to the discussion. If I am not mistaken this was Times Nows first general election coverage. They have plenty to do before 2014 comes along.
This was CNN-IBNs first general election coverage as well. CNN-IBN and NDTV were better than Times Now. Between CNN-IBN and NDTV?
Before I come to that however I would humbly suggest to our main political parties that they upgrade the quality of their TV spokesmanship. Abhisekh Manu Singhvi for the Congress and Arun Jaitley for the BJP are always and obvious safe bets; they find it pretty much impossible to not say something intelligent.
But others from the Congress and the BJP should definitely prep better. The BJPs Nalin Kohli proves that articulation and cheerful countenance are not enough for this job. Ashwani Kumar (Congress) is too pedantic.
On American news TV,party spokespersons or party sympathisers offer some of the best political analysis. On Indian news TV,they mostly offer noise.
Coming back to CNN-IBN and NDTV,both broadcasters exit polls were within safe distance of actual results and given many recent psephological embarrassments,a measure of self congratulation was perfectly understandable. But CNN-IBN was hyperventilating. There was a suggestion of desperation in the repeat plays of Vilas Rao Deshmukhs and Omar Abdullahs positive but polite observations. NDTV was more sober about this stuff.
I am all for sobriety on news TV. In fact,I am a sucker for it. I cry helplessly and in joy when news TV gives me sobriety,which it of course mostly doesnt. But over long stretches,NDTV anchors appeared not so much sober as flagging. Languorous is the adjective that came to mind. This is important because on a day like Saturday,news TV gets viewership over long stretches. CNN-IBNs advantage was that its anchors communicated more energy. They seemed more engaged, charged up, involved.
I came to this conclusion on Sunday and completely stopped watching news TV till markets opened on Monday and CNN-IBNs financial broadcaster cousin,CNBC,demonstrated that theres charged up and then theres charged up.
CNBC anchors seemed to have theres no other phrase for it lost it a bit as the Sensex climbed. If Sensex was a person,he/she would have got hugged and kissed in the studio. As it is,I think a laptop got kissed.
I refer all TV financial journalists prone to on-screen irrational exuberance to Jon Stewarts interview of American CNBCs Jim Kramer (reviewed in these columns). The lessons are self-evident.
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