May 23, 2009 2:16:28 am
Others: a minefield of a word. Anthropologists,sociologists,cultural studies theorists and,er,others in social science disciplines (minus economists) will tell you that when you define others you are essentially demonstrating your value judgment on what constitutes mainstream. Apparently,in defining others you can end up revealing your prejudices and laying bare your relationship with the existing power structure. Unpleasant stuff,clearly,and so much more complicated than the others business in news TV,where on election results day,the only problem the category poses is whether to include SUCI in it or append the partys tally to Trinamuls.
So,I am acutely mindful of the fact that when I say that this edition of the column will talk about others in the news TV business,unpleasant conclusions about my value judgment can be drawn on the evidence of the following paragraphs.
This column talks a lot about NDTV 24×7,CNN-IBN and Times Now. CNBC and NDTV Profit make reasonably frequent appearances. They English language TV channels,all five are not the others. Aaj Tak,a vernacular language channel,has found many mentions clearly,its not in the others category either. I put India TV in a category thats beyond mainstream and others. A news channel that has a prime time news show called Breaking News,that has done news stories on ghosts and talked to terrorists,to mention but a few of its special attributes,deserves a category of its own.
Are all the others in others? More or less,I think. Yes,I know,this raises questions about my value judgment. Indeed,I find,interrogating myself,but for different reasons.
I am not so worried about my prejudice,as my presumption. Having watched the others off and on with the purpose of gathering enough viewing experience to be able to write about them,I am not sure my distinction between the mainstream and others is as sharp as I have presumed.
What I mean is that on plain vanilla news reporting over a daily news cycle,the quality of reportage between broadcasters in the two categories is not starkly different. A reporter outside Congress HQ,talking to the news anchor in a mid-afternoon bulletin you dont get anything terribly different,irrespective of the channel. There are a few exceptions in the quality channels,but very few.
And its true that sometimes some of the anchor-reporter chatter on the others can be puzzling. On News X,for example. But in general,it would be unfair to say that compared to the others,NDTV or CNN-IBN or Times Now or Aaj Tak offers spectacular quality differences in terms of daily reportage.
The distinction,I think,comes mainly via news shows talk TV. In the matter of getting relevant people to sit around a table and anchors guiding a discussion about this,that and the other,the others in the news TV business clearly have a lot of catching up to do. Mind you,it is not as if talk TV on mainstream broadcasters hasnt given one moments of pure entertainment.
The interesting issues are (a) whether quality channels recognise that in terms of boots-on-the-ground reporting,the quality difference is not large and (b) that they do recognise it but reckon that better quality talk TV is a sufficient differentiator.
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