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In Flight or Inflight?

A TRP harvest frenzy has led news channels to go overboard,and on board as well.

Are we doomed to suffer gender politics by other means to the bitter end of the campaign trail? The world this week appears to consist of the following: Narendra Modi and Amit Shah,with or without female subject of surveillance in frame. Kapil Sibal protesting that he is neither anyone’s shareholder nor uncle,a canard raised by the BJP for which it was curiously not taken to task. And,of course,the reappearance of a confident Tarun Tejpal,whose saga is becoming the new national soap. The moral tragedy is giving such competition to the saas-bahu lot that a Hindi channel claimed to have stationed a reporter at every checkpoint from Mumbai to Goa,to grasp its essence better.

Embarrassingly,the dozens of journalists stationed outside Tejpal’s house failed to detect his flight to an undisclosed location,because of which reporters had to be tastefully scattered all over Delhi,Mumbai and Goa in the first place. Meanwhile,the cameras outside Shoma Chaudhury’s house attracted BJP protesters who vandalised the property a bit with black paint and,in effect,tarred and feathered their own party.

The channels probably welcomed the excitement,no matter if it was bizarre. It produced the only fresh footage relating to Tejpal that they would get between Chaudhury’s resignation at the crack of dawn on Thursday and Tejpal suddenly coming up for airtime at Delhi’s airport yesterday afternoon. Thereafter,the channels had to wait impatiently for Tejpal’s plane to land,with only Times Now being able to pretend with any success that the story was still breaking. An old hand at this game,it can make the Upper Paleolithic look like news.

Wonder if you’ve noticed,but the channels are so starved of footage to keep the chase story rolling that some of the new videos were taken with cellphones. The story will pitch ever higher and then die down over the weekend,but in the interim,expect to see much citizen journalism-like video.

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But with Tejpal’s flight in midair,the Goa police arguing that he was trying to evade them,it may have looked like the end of the story to Times Now. In a TRP harvest frenzy,it promised an explosive exclusive from the airport,in which Tejpal had apparently spoken for the first time on camera since the scandal broke. It ran the promo over and over again for almost an hour,until one began to suspect that the footage and the cameraman had climbed into the flight with Tejpal (which indeed was the case).

When it ran,the exclusive was indeed quite interesting,showing Tejpal at his ease in a lounge,as affable as he had been in the departure area. But the track had been shot by someone who was not used to handling spy cameras. The video was upside down part of the time,the audio was largely inaudible and there was nothing to report. It sucked,but the stinger had been stung.

Tejpal had accused the media of being too loud. True,perhaps it had to be loud about its own,after shrieking about Asaram Bapu and his ilk. Perhaps the thrill of the chase,very visible on TV,would have been absent if Tejpal had not been a journalist partial to crusades,but a ball bearing manufacturer. But as the cat and mouse game ended with the mouse’s flight winging down towards the felinely satisfied smile that Manohar Parrikar wears these days,one wondered if the story was actually beginning. Chief ministers usually need to see people dropping like flies before they move a muscle. The deep interest that the Goa CM has taken in this matter is an exception. Perhaps a welcome one. Or perhaps not.

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

First published on: 30-11-2013 at 03:15 IST
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