Breaking news: It’s been open warfare out there between news channels. No, not just the fight for viewers’ eyeballs or the competition for the advertisers’ money bags but the battle over Kanhaiya and the mysterious affair of the tampered videos.
In turn, this has led to a deeper conflict over who represents the nation, who endangers the nation and who will save it from “anti-national desh drohis”, including those on rival news channels.
Of course, news anchors are far too polite (huh?) to call each other names or even name each other. So there have been veiled references (samjhane wale samajh hi jayenge) to those who wear a “suit” and drown out other people’s voices with their own rhetoric. Both Ravish Kumar and Barkha Dutt (NDTV) have criticised this approach to the news — Dutt was recently at The Telegraph conclave in Kolkata where Anupam Kher went “viral”, or so India TV admiringly told us, with a stirring defence of PM Modi and an insulting attack on Justice Ashok Ganguly.
In the spirit of solidarity, we won’t call people names either. The two news anchors on Times Now and Zee News — channels which allegedly aired the doctored tapes of JNU’s Kanhaiya making allegedly seditious remarks — who appear before you at 9 pm every weekday, took offence at the attacks and hit back. The former by a blitzkrieg of promos on Times Now that claimed the channel was the leader on news and on Twitter. And all this time, we thought it was Narendra Modi.
Zee News has been even more outspoken, if that be possible. It finds and then airs a new Kanhaiya “video” each day as proof of the JNUSU president’s unpatriotic ways; it airs videos of youth shouting ostensibly pro-Kashmir slogans (Monday), and warns that our enemies will use such videos against India at the UN (?). It has also begun a campaign, #WakeUpIndia to alert all patriots against “rashtra virodhi” forces which are “growing in strength”. Zee Media chairman Subhash Chandra Goel went on air especially to issue this warning and concluded by praising Anupam Kher for “speaking from the heart”. The news anchor, meanwhile, decried “Afzal premis” and exhorted the public to “speak up, don’t remain silent”. He also accused ABP News of refusing to share the Kher speech but the actor had given them the green signal, so there ABP, eat your heart out.
Speaking of the heart, if Kher is praised for speaking from his heart, “dil ki awaaz” as CBFC member Ashok Pandit put it, why are JNU students criticised for doing the same? As they say in Hindi films, “Yeh kahan ka insaaf?”
Kanhaiya has made a lot of people hot under the collar and there are many flushed faces on TV these days as they battle it out among themselves. Unprecedented. Unbecoming.
Perhaps they should all watch and learn from Megyn Kelly of Fox News on how to respond to an attack coolly and clinically. She had been mauled by Donald Trump in an earlier Republican candidates’ debate on the American news channel. Last week, she was all icy sang froid as she flushed Trump down the, er, toilet. She did so by rolling out facts about his Trump University and replaying his own words to him (no, they were not doctored), which conclusively showed how often he contradicted himself on different issues. Is this telling it like it is, she asked him, softly. All he could do was to meekly admit he had changed his mind. He was also caught out on his boasts about tax cuts that would reduce the federal deficit with the figures clearly showing otherwise. For once, he was silenced, none of his below the belt witticisms able to rescue him from his own mistakes.
Ah, for a newshour debate that marshals facts.