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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

P2Ps from an American comic

Allow me to ignore what NDTV,CNN-IBN,Times Now,Aaj Tak,CNBC,NDTV Profit etc showed this week and let me give opening credits to an American TV comic.

Written by Saubhik Chakrabarti | Published: March 28, 2009 10:30:12 pm

Allow me to ignore what NDTV,CNN-IBN,Times Now,Aaj Tak,CNBC,NDTV Profit etc showed this week and let me give opening credits to an American TV comic. Thus indulged,your correspondent hopes to demonstrate that a little time spent on the American TV comic will produce interesting,perhaps even important points-to-ponder (P2P,for short) for Indian broadcast journalism.

If any of you haven’t seen Jon Stewart’s shows,go to You Tube and watch them. Stewart,as you will see,takes news headlines and makes,well,Stewart-like stuff out of them. He’s clever,edgy and sometimes brilliant. But he’s never been talked about as much in American media as he was recently,after he interviewed American CNBC’s Jim Cramer (you can find his show,Mad Money,on the web,or watch it late night in CNBC India).

To cut a long,interesting story very short,Stewart had been critiquing business news TV’s ‘uncritical’ coverage in the context of the financial crisis; CNBC America was not amused; the back and forth finally led to Stewart calling Cramer to his show. The laughs aside,Stewart’s inquisition rested on two points,(a) why didn’t business news TV catch on that Wall Street was going to implode and (b) why doesn’t business news TV admit that it can’t do proper reporting because it’s too busy doing celebratory commentary when there’s a bull market.

This raises the following pops for Indian TV news.

First P2P: The question whether 24×7 championing of a bull market militates against critical,expert TV news coverage is relevant in India,which now really knows what a business cycle means. And the answers are not simple. Your correspondent’s brief take is this: It is necessary to ask why business news TV can become shrilly celebratory about a bull market (anchors wearing Sensex 10,000 or Sensex 20,000 T-shirts). But it is important to remember that sobriety doesn’t necessarily imply a better chance at getting to the truth. Who really called the financial crisis before it happened? Who called a business scandal in India before it happened? Post-crisis anger is understandable,in many cases justified. But populist condemnation isn’t that helpful either. Doubtless this view can be contested,from the left and the right. Getting that debate going is what Indian news TV should do. How interesting would it be to watch a senior CNBC India or NDTV Profit anchor take questions on this in a general news channel. True,we don’t have a Jon Stewart. And CNN-IBN’s funnyman won’t at all do for this purpose. But we can give up the laughs for an interesting discussion.

Second P2P: Stewart’s point about too little reporting can strike a chord with anyone who has watched business news TV in India. There’s a lot of commentary ¿ from the anchors and from dozens of analysts and company executives. But you don’t notice too many examples,compared to general new channels,of reporters running around to get a story,at least a story that hasn’t come from a business house or a government press release or market movements. There’s this “we will sit around and talk PE and topline and midcap and that’s pretty much enough” sense you get from business news TV. This looks odd even when there’s a bull market. Without a bull market it looks like slightly surreal sometimes.

saubhik.chakrabarti@expressindia.com

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