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Sunday, December 05, 2021

Groundhog evening & the Frequent Five

After weeks of election talk TV,last evening could have been fun.

Written by Saubhik Chakrabarti |
April 18, 2009 12:49:28 am

After weeks of election talk TV,last evening could have been fun. But our otherwise admirable Election Commission has a quixotically puritanical take on exit polls. That guaranteed that Thursday evening was the same as Wednesday evening,which was the same as Tuesday evening — you get the point.

If they ever make a sequel to that marvelous cult classic Groundhog Day and if Bill Murray,who played the protagonist,is unavailable or unwilling,may be I should apply. Groundhog Day is about a guy who wakes up every day and finds it goes exactly like the previous day.

Let me hastily point out that the fact that the protagonist is a TV chap — a narcissistic TV weatherman with some unlovely personal traits — has nothing to do with my observation. Our news TV is full of nice guys. That’s not the point here. The point is Groundhog evening — every evening over the past few weeks of election talk TV I have switched off the telly with a strong sense that I am stuck. Some space-time hole where Abhishek Manu Singhvi telling a TV anchor,‘I’m afraid I don’t agree’,or variations of that,is a permanent feature.

Parenthetically,let me observe that someone should give Singhvi a prize for heroism in the face of almost-same questions from three or four TV channels in the same evening. He’s done this evening after evening. But politicians are a tougher lot than journalists. So,even though I only had to watch it,it was most disconcerting.

Other permanent features in the space-time hole — CNN-IBN,NDTV,Times Now star anchors. Now,of course,in TV journalism,as in most other activities,a small number of people will get more play than the majority in that field. That’s natural. But that small number should not be too small. However,CNN-IBN has two stars,NDTV,two,and Times Now,one (I am excluding the non-staff,empanelled psephologists/political analysts here).

Now,shed a tear for your columnist,who’s compelled to watch a lot of election talk TV — just five TV anchors,evening after evening,interrogating and interrupting the same half a dozen politicians who do the studio rounds.

I have no idea why after years of broadcast journalism in this country,TV journalism’s star base isn’t a little broader. As a viewer the reasons are far less important for me than the effect.

By the way,if you are wondering about my criteria for picking news TV stars,just watch evening news. You will know. And contrast Indian news channels with BBC or CNN.

Here’s a thought that chills me: It’s general election 2014,I am ready for a month or so of election talk TV,and I see Abhishek Manu Singhvi saying ‘I’m afraid I don’t agree’,or a variation of that,and it’s one of the Frequent Five who interrupts him.

In Groundhog Day the protagonist gets out of the terror of sameness by becoming a better man. I doubt I can manage that. So,no chance of getting out? Not necessarily. Perhaps,news TV can become better. 

saubhik.chakrabarti@expressindia.com

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