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Sound and fury,signifying nothing

News coverage of the Aarushi case,Sachin in Rajya Sabha,and the revelation of the Bofors whistleblower added little to the discussion

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published: May 3, 2012 3:34:47 am

News coverage of the Aarushi case,Sachin in Rajya Sabha,and the revelation of the Bofors whistleblower added little to the discussion

Have you noticed that the hilarious news spoof,The Week That Wasn’t (CNN-IBN) bears an uncanny resemblance to every day’s TV news/ discussions?

We’ll call it,the news that wasn’t. News. And it goes something like this:

Monday,Nupur Talwar,denied bail,was jailed in Aarushi and Hemraj murder cases. All day and all of the night (thank you,The Beatles),sightings of her travelling in a vehicle drove Hindi and English news. Lawyers like Mahesh Jethmalani debated the law on bail and the Talwars’ lawyer Pinaki Mishra blamed the media for everything (CNN-IBN,Times Now) but India TV rescued us from anything remotely serious with breaking news: Nupur wore her own clothes to jail,she borrowed a jail library book,she was given a blanket,a mug,she was crying — and she dined on brinjal-potatoes,dal and rotis.

News? Perhaps some vital clues to the Aarushi case reside in Nupur’s reading habits. Next morning,newspapers dwelt on the same details,but in their Delhi editions. TV channels footprint the nation — was Nupur’s prison diet relevant to viewers in Nagpur,Bangalore or Gorakhpur?

No sooner was Sachin Tendulkar nominated to the Rajya Sabha that he made the rounds of news studios. At least in name. Speculation was wild enough to drive the Sensex berserk: what will Tendulkar do in the Upper House? Er,not play cricket?

Aaj Tak turned to former cricketers-cum-politicians Mohammed Azharuddin and Kirti Azad,with Kapil Dev,for worthier answers. Since none are or have been RS members,they discussed something they knew nothing about. Then they discussed something they do know something about: timing. Could Tendulkar divide his time between cricket and Parliament,asked Kapil. Lok Sabha MP Azad said his timing was poor between politics and cricket. Yes,agreed Azhar,timing’s the thing. But as we all know,Tendulkar’s timing is perfect,right?

Monday,former Lok Sabha secretary general,Subhash Kashyap,found a new(s) twist to the debate (IBN 7): the president’s RS nominees should have contributed to one of four disciplines: science,culture,literature or social service. Does Tendulkar fit into any of these,asked he? The panel,gravely,considered the options. Well,Tendulkar’s shot selection is scientific,his strokes cultured,he is poetry in motion and he does us a great social service by distracting us from the state of the nation. Howzzat?

Last week,Sonia Gandhi met senior party leaders to discuss the party’s parliamentary strategy. News channels ran “breaking news” that a new “Kamaraj Plan” was afoot — senior Congress ministers were shifting to the party. NDTV 24X7,CNN-IBN and Times Now discussed the ifs and buts as though the move was imminent the next day. Visuals of ministers like Jairam Ramesh,V Naranayaswamy,Salman Khurshid and Pranab Mukherjee in cars flashed across the screen as if they were rushing to party HQ to start work,immediately. Then a ticker ran Mukherjee’s enigmatic observation: “Everybody works for the party”. Well of course they do,so what’s there to discuss? Nothing.

News flash: a week later,no such reshuffle has taken place.

Last example: Chitra Subramaniam-Duella’s interview with the Bofors “Deep Throat”,Sten Lindstrom,was all the rage on April 25. No evidence against Rajiv Gandhi,Amitabh Bachchan’s innocence and the lack of follow up investigations were the big findings. Most channels went for the CBI’s throat. Why did they let Ottavio Quattrocchi get away — was it because of Sonia? An irate Mani Shankar Aiyar for once lost his expressionless expression and snapped his eyes: what did the NDA,the V.P. Singh and the I.K. Gujral/Deve Gowda governments do while in power,he growled. The question went from one studio discussion to another without an answer. Arun Nehru simply said that there was nothing new in the Lindstrom interview,V.P. Singh was no more and had anyone asked Gujral or Gowda? So Arnab Goswami glared out of the photo frame and bellowed: Ravi Shankar Prasad,I put it to you — did the BJP and the Congress have an agreement not to follow up the investigation (Times Now)? What could the unfortunate Prasad reply — yes,of course we had an agreement with Sonia to leave Bofors alone?

Don’t you sometimes feel that TV discussions often break nothing but the sound barrier?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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