Telescope: Feel of the nation

Regional news channels show what the English channels ignore.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: September 15, 2016 12:03:00 am

Some ten days after CNN News 18 first broadcast its interview with the prime minister, IBN-7 telecast it once again on Sunday. Huh? CNN News has celebrated the interview endlessly, the latest promo boasting that on the day of the interview, the channel beat Times Now — that means the latter is the “leader” on all other days. Times Now should thank CNN News for this free publicity.

Hindi and regional news channels are increasingly the ones to watch. You could have watched the Patidar protests in Surat last week disrupt an Amit Shah event (ETV Gujarat), the BJP president deliver his “Dilli-ke-damaad” speech targetting former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Robert Vadra at a rally on Sunday, (OK India TV) and listened to BSP chief Mayawati’s campaign speech in Saharanpur the same day (APN) — followed immediately by a thoughtful analysis (Prime News). In fact, these channels are a must watch as we head into a season of assembly elections in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat later in 2017. Here, you can get a feel of what is happening, being said or done in the states that the “national” English channels ignore until and unless there’s a natural disaster, human conflict, a speech by PM Modi or cots stolen at Rahul Gandhi’s rally which, according to Times Now, happened again at Mirzapur at his khat rally.

In fact, these channels are a must watch as we head into a season of assembly elections in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat later in 2017. Here, you can get a feel of what is happening, being said or done in the states that the “national” English channels ignore until and unless there’s a natural disaster, human conflict, a speech by PM Modi or cots stolen at Rahul Gandhi’s rally which, according to Times Now, happened again at Mirzapur at his khat rally.

The “water war” between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu flooded news channels on Monday. Through the day, English news channels joined the violence on the streets of Bengaluru, in particular, with screaming headlines of the violence — but what’s new about that?

The next day, the news channels went to battle chikungunya in Delhi, except that the thrust of their attack was less on the virulence of the outbreak and more about the by now routine — and tiresome — blame game between the BJP and AAP. Tuesday, it focused on the travel habits of the AAP CM and his ministers, the LG and Delhi officials who were “absconding” from Delhi.

Of course this was shocking (maybe “shocking news” could be a new category for news channels?) and deserved headline coverage but should there not have been more on the nature of the deaths since doctors and the media had assured us that chikungunya is not fatal? Viewers are more concerned about how to survive chikungunya than Kejriwal’s latest tweet.

Information and Broadcasting Minister, Venkaiah Naidu called for media restraint in the coverage of the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu conflict following the viral-spiral of a video that allegedly showed a Tamil youth being thrashed in Karnataka. His ministry issued an advisory — especially for TV news — to avoid coverage of the violence. The intervention begs the question — why has there been no such advisory on the coverage of J&K and the violence there? TV news — national and local channels in Kashmir — have been polarised and polarising irrespective of the argument espoused. This isn’t a call for censorship. On the contrary, it’s a call to raise questions: How do you judge whether inflammatory opinions and discussions on J&K are less provocative/harmful than footage of protests in Karnataka or Tamil Nadu? And does either deserve state intervention?

News channels, by and large, are loud and sensational, given to exaggeration and repetition on everything from comedian Kapil Sharma’s bribe tweet to Balochistan, Kashmir and the Cauvery water dispute. Does this kind of coverage increase pressure on everyone from politicians and officials to citizens to be accountable or does it incite conflict and exacerbate a situation?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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