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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Lesson from news shoenami

The evening of the day of the shoe,CNN-IBN’s 10 pm prime time show featured the following on-screen captions: ‘Shoecide attack..

Written by Saubhik Chakrabarti | April 11, 2009 10:51:27 pm

The evening of the day of the shoe,CNN-IBN’s 10 pm prime time show featured the following on-screen captions: ‘Shoecide attack’; ‘Government gets the boot’,‘Shoeing the Congress’; ‘Protest from the sole’; ‘A Sikh puts his foot down’. Five awful puns in one show — is that some kind of a record? And why do it? Let’s be clear here that I am not asking this question because I am complaining about the absence of serious,nuanced journalism. I am taking evening news talk TV as it is. The question still persists.

What does the show,any show gain from such demonstration of a linguistic obsessive compulsive disorder? Or is there a niche segment of viewers who just can’t get enough of this stuff? If there is,CNN-IBN is the market leader in this category. It’s not that NDTV or Times Now doesn’t do it (NDTV had ‘Shoe stoppers’ the same evening) but it is only CNN-IBN that makes you think it runs a boot camp — yes,I know,so unfunny,I am just trying my hand at this — on teaching bad puns. For the record,let’s also observe that TV’s language sins are not confined to weird word play. NDTV’s first report on the P. Chidambaram press conference that started it all,was captioned: ‘Drama at Chid presser’. That was ghastly.

Unsurprisingly,I don’t remember what the CNN-IBN show actually discussed except recalling that at the point of handover,the anchor described the anchors of the next show — the channel’s state-by-state pre-election analysis — as election warriors. Election warriors — impressive,huh?

The warriors seemed to have changed their battle plans a bit,and for the better. Recall (okay,of course you can’t recall,allow me to remind you) this column had observed that CNN-IBN’s election show was exhibiting withdrawal symptoms of not having done an opinion poll (NDTV has done one). Unwarranted excitement was being engendered by seat counts calculated via superimposing assembly results on Lok Sabha constituencies. Those numbers are still there but they seem to have been demoted. The show’s improved. CNN-IBN’s election warriors,on the whole and so far,seem to be doing a better job than NDTV’s election warriors. That’s the reason NDTV’s election show seems a bit underwhelming. The NDTV show has the advantage of possessing actual opinion poll numbers and picking good guest panellists. But those pluses are not coming through.

The shoenami — yes,still unfunny,and still trying my hand,trying to understand how the CNN-IBN guys think — of TV news coverage on the Tytler case left in its wake some conclusions that applies to talk TV no matter what the news is. The most important is that the bigger the panel,the worse the discussion. The few panellists who can make intelligent points get lost in a blizzard of cross talk and peevish demands that two minutes,twenty seconds be given to complete a point,a sentence.

Times Now’s election news panel is a first-rate demonstration of this. Thursday evening,Jayanti Natarajan was demanding she be allowed to make her case. But before she finished saying the sentence that she should be allowed to finish her sentence another panellist intervened to demand that he be allowed to finish his sentence. The anchor reassured both,taking more than one sentence to do that. Inevitably the show ended with most of the panellists talking simultaneously and with the anchor talking across them and thanking all of them.

NDTV’s Buck Stops Here has a similar problem — the buck stops at too many places,and never for long,because each of the many panellists has to be brought in. Of course,it is impossible,even given the low expectations from talk TV,to thread together a coherent discussion. The better panellists get to make a couple of half-points. The anchor makes an effort at holding it together. But the show looks like We the Panellists.

saubhik.chakrabarti@expressindia.com

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