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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Revolutions eat their own

News TV loses control of Team Anna.

Written by Mihir S. Sharma |
August 27, 2011 3:51:48 am

When the dispensers of India’s destiny — by which I mean whoever decides programming at 24-hour news channels — retire to bed tonight,I suggest they take Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with them. It is a rip-roaringly good read,of course,but for those lordly beings,it will also be an instructive moral parable. Seeing any real parallel between an eight-foot tall monster and the short,tired old gentleman in a white vest who eats up all our screen-time,needs much imagination; but imagination’s one thing the rulers of news TV have lots of.

They will be worried already. Anna Hazare’s movement,which they have nurtured and treasured — and in case anyone still thinks they haven’t,a recent survey of their coverage in April found 5592 pro-Anna segments versus 62 that were anti-Anna,a ratio that might raise eyebrows at Fox News — seems to be getting out of control. By which I mean,their control.

Thus,a little desperation this week. First Arnab Goswami made the strategic error of asking Aruna Roy on the News Hour and making her endure Eminent Jurists dissecting the bill. When Roy finally spoke,we realised that,apparently,a woman argues only from pique: Goswami summed up Roy’s cogent objections as being because of “a history of differences.” Roy was incensed: “we were to have a discussion on the law.” Quite so,agreed Arnab,reminded. He immediately turned back to one of the (male) Eminent Jurists.

His accusations understandably enraged Roy: “Your timing — as Team Anna was sitting on fast,you had a press conference.” (Wait — Anna should have broken his fast to let Roy address the press?) “You feel like Kejriwal stole your agenda,walked away with the credit. That really is the reason for the differences.” Roy took off,explaining Team Anna’s arrogance at length. Goswami was left begging: “Allow me Ma’am —” “One minute ma’am…” “Not fair…” “Can I please ask you something?” And finally,most amusingly: “Allow me to complete?”

It got worse for Goswami when,the next day,Aruna Bhardwaj and Aman Lekhi showed him up as being grossly underprepared: “Have you even read the Lokayukta Act?” asked Lekhi,aghast. Good times.

You see,TV recognised the rhythm of the story: it was time for an endgame. Except nobody was willing to provide it. Goswami needed a neat resolution: his final,defiant argument every time rationality invaded a discussion was: “then this fast would have achieved nothing.” That’s not how the story we wrote ended!

So they forced the pace. “Anna Wins!” declared Times Now on Thursday. CNN-IBN hinted at a breakthrough. But Team Anna,performing for the adulatory crowds at the Ramlila maidan,had forgotten who had created them. They couldn’t stop the Anna-lila yet! After all,Kejriwal & Co couldn’t leave without asking Arindam Chaudhuri to turn up,because where else would the Aspirational Ponytail find quite so gullible an Aspirational Crowd? He did,wearing Aspirational Jeans,and all but promised everyone there an Aspirational IIM-equivalent- “degree”-cum-laptop just for turning up. And Kiran Bedi,at least,was having way too much fun,swishing cloth off and over her face,free-associating about “mukhautas.” I really began to feel bad for Hazare,not because he’d skipped a few meals,but because having to sit through this unhinged variety show seems really too much self-sacrifice even for a self-professed Gandhian.

So Team Anna decided against a deal. And so,suddenly,Goswami began to wonder if Hazare was too “hardline.” And CNN-IBN prominently flashed Rajdeep Sardesai’s “open letter,” in which he warned Anna Hazare,with apparent seriousness,of “the dangers of reducing the fight against corruption to a well-choreographed prime time TV spectacle.”

As they retire to sleep,thus,our Bharat-bhagya-vidhatas might well be a little worried about the Frankenstein they have unleashed,racing about our cities,beating up our cops,and dictating to our Parliament. If Team Anna doesn’t listen to them soon,news TV is going to have to grab a pitchfork and a torch and head out to deal with its own monster.

And beware,Team Anna. You might bully UPA 2. But news TV is not quite that easy. After all,unlike the government,news TV actually believes it runs the country.

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