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Some out of box thinking,please?

Politics is settling down. So will news television. There will be controversies,silly and otherwise...

Politics is settling down. So will news television. There will be controversies,silly and otherwise,in the new government — there always are — and news TV will hyperventilate,not always making a distinction between a controversy that’s silly and that’s not. Some politicians will face the nation,some will join a big fight,some will sit with the people; there will be half finished sentences left,right and centre,every hour will seem like a newshour,the buck may or may not stop at some show,but the talk will never stop. If one can shiver from lack of anticipation,I am shivering. Hence this question.

When CNN-IBN won’t have the news context to dig deep into ministers’ lives and find out that some of them were college athletes — the brief ministerial bios during the swearing-in ceremony demonstrated diligence as well as puzzlingly eclectic editorial choices — when NDTV won’t have any reason to hold jolly chats on early career similarities between ministers of state and studio guests,when Times Now won’t do whatever it was doing when reporting and commenting on ministry-making,can they do something different?

Four suggestions.

1. Foreign policy news coverage on TV leaves,to put it diplomatically,considerable scope for improvement. I remember gasping with disbelief at some of the anchor-reporter chats when the nuclear deal was news. But even for ‘easier’ foreign policy news stories you run minimal risk of coming across reasonably substantive analysis. Since UPA II is looking at a really tricky neighbourhood situation,can news TV produce a long format news analysis on the Af-Pak-Bang-Nep-Lanka probelm? Warning: this is not the same as having former foreign secretaries as studio guests,nor will the umpteenth interview with Asif Ali Zardari or a cozy chat with Shashi Tharoor qualify.

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2. It’s easy to figure out ministerial remits that are both important and satisfy news TV’s criteria of being viewer friendly. So,may be news TV can travel to areas where highways are supposed to be built but are not being built with a vengeance (the information is easy to get),tell us a story with one or two site reports and explain a bit the problems at the top (contract design is a big issue)? In similar spirit,what about a cracker of a story on higher education; easy to conceptualise and offers plenty of visual possibilities,there are after all hundreds of lousy universities in this country?

3. The BJP is ripe for good stories — a party in search of ideas about what it should search for. News TV is generally distinctly underwhelming on the rare occasions it attempts party overviews. But first rate background research and talking at length to people around the BJP and to those who have researched it should give enough thinking points.

4. State-of-airports story. Great story if you research it properly; there is more to this than passengers who have missed a flight to their summer holiday destination. Again,plenty of visual possibilities.

None of the above four either makes excessive demands in terms of production costs or asks for a story that viewers won’t be able to ‘relate to’.

May I switch to shivering in anticipation?

saubhik.chakrabarti@expressindia.com

First published on: 30-05-2009 at 02:17 IST
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