Telescope: Quake and competitionhttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/telescope-quake-and-competition/

Telescope: Quake and competition

The news channels’ efforts to convey the depth of human suffering in Nepal were buried by one-upmanship.

nepal earthquake, earthquake, nepal quake, nepal, nepal earthquake relief, nepal earthquake rescue effort, indian media, ekta kapoor, ekta kapoor serial, nach baiye, indian express columns, columns
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, students light candles and pray for people trapped in Nepal earthquake at the University of South China in Hengyang City, central China’s Hunan Province. (Source: AP photo)

The pity is it’s become something of a contest: which news channel could provide the biggest and best coverage? Fine and brave efforts to convey the depth of the human suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal were sometimes buried under numbers. “5,000 dead,” proclaimed ABP, with more sensationalism than shock. “Two tonnes of biscuits,” boasted DD News in a lengthy list of supplies India is airlifting to Nepal (2 tonnes?). “Aftershocks at 12.39 pm, 12.56 pm, 13.06 pm,” reported Times Now, Sunday, “measuring 6.7 with a tenth of the seismic energy of yesterday’s.” ABP had 10 reporters on the job, Times Now had at least 11 — and they showed us photographs to prove it.

Sunday, CNN-IBN telecast “exclusive” footage; Headlines Today and Aaj Tak claimed to be the first to broadcast from the epicentre of the quake, Lamjung; NDTV India said that after a chhota sa break, it would return with “kuch alag alag tasveeron ke saath”. Meanwhile, ABP had “25 tasveerein” and “2 minutes” of the disaster, “dekhiye live”. IBN7 took this a step further, zooming into the hospitalised victims’ faces so close we could see their names plastered on their foreheads. And Hindi news was almost lyrical in its descriptions of destroyed buildings: “barbadi ka nishaan sirf rah gaya” (India TV).

In between, footage of the damage, of streets lined with people living outdoors, interviews with stunned individuals, recollections of the day the earth shook — especially visuals of fans swaying — and India’s aid efforts. Supplemented by explanations (the Indian plate has collided with the Himalayan — DD News) and helpful tips — don’t panic, switch off electricity, hide under the bed, take the stairs…

During commercial breaks, commercials are shown for Bangur and ACC cement: unbreakable. Hmmm.

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If Ekta Kapoor is involved, can melodrama be far behind? A reality show that thus far had been an entertaining dance contest will now also have a daily “Punchanama” to “test the strength of the relationship” between participating couples. So says Kapoor, the producer of Nach Baliye 7 (Star Plus). Which is why the Five Point Someone who has written about The 3 Mistakes of My Life while he was in 2 states of mind over a Half Girlfriend plays judge. His knowledge of the finer steps of dancing can be summed by another digit: 0. Due apologies to author Chetan Bhagat — he knows plenty about natak but not much about nach. That is left to fellow judges Preity Zinta and choreographer Marzi Pestonjee — but he still gets to vote on the performances. A straightforward talent contest has been complicated into a melodrama. Suppose, no less can be expected from the saas-bahu-ansoo queen of “K” serials.

Watched India TV recently? Now, why is anchor Rajat Sharma literally in our faces, choosing to appear on screen in an extreme closeup that leaves no room for anything else?

Enjoy the delicious irony of this tidbit. After the suicide of a farmer in Delhi during the AAP’s Jantar Mantar rally, the nation’s news channel held a discussion in which the participants were shouting as is their wont, simultaneously. The nation’s anchor interrupted: “My only point tonight (three times), please speak one at a time. I request you to (respect) the sobriety of the occasion — I will not allow this to be a slinging match, tonight.” Well, well, well. What about every other night?

The nation by the way, has become part of a national joke. On Nach Baliye, one of the hosts assumed a mock serious pose and declaimed, “The nation wants to know…”

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com