Thursday, January 31, 2013

Creating Controversies: TV News channels dictating national agenda, fuelling passions to get viewership

Electronic media loves controversies. For the sake of higher TRPs that brings advertisement revenues, some of the TV news channels can create controversies as well.

So what if more important pressing issues get ignored and due to the pressure to speak or clarify their stand in front of nation, politicians also get into this nonsense.

The high-pitched debates 'moderated' by hysteric anchors, which lead to nothing, and repeat of the same news through out the day, is consuming all news space.

I will start with an incident involving Nitin Gadkari, who was recently removed from the post of BJP's national president. He didn't reply to TV reporters' questions [questions that were aimed to create controversies] and straight went to a programme.
Here, he said that being intelligent doesn't mean that a person will excel. Gadkari said that an intelligent person should also have focus and must work in the right direction, and then only he'll achieve success. Gadkari spoke about Vivekananda.

Later, he said that a person like Dawood Ibrahim may also be too intelligent but he used his mind in negative direction, and hence turned out to be what  he is today. So one should channelise his/her energies for the betterment of society. What's wrong?
TV reporters soon began airing, 'Gadkari compared Vivekananda with Dawood". It was not that these journalists were not aware that what he had said. But to ensure that their report was telecast during prime time [probably also to take revenge for not replying to their queries], they gave it the twist.

Shahrukh Khan
Now if channels went ahead with the news, how could newspapers be left behind. If a print media reporter would say, "No, Gadkari didn't say it", he would be chided by his bosses, 'Ye sab jhoote hain kya', 'Watch TV, see his byte'. 

Now don't we know, how 'bytes' are selectively cut to show particular scenes.  Its free country. Its fee media. People are free. But then perhaps, we should be carefree as well or take things with a pinch of salt. But we are not. We take things seriously. Everything is turned into a national issue.
There are experts called to studios and the discussions begin, as if every issue would be settled right now, once for all. Alas, nothing happens. It was a dry period recently. But  for the last couple of days, it's been a wonderful period for these news channels.

One day you have Shahrukh Khan controversy, the next day you have Ashis Nandy, the third day there is a clear effort to get someone say something 'interesting' over Yashwant Sinha's statement about Modi to create another issue and the fourth day, its Vishwaroopam.

Of course, Shahurkh Khan issue can be dragged to one or two days more, by pushing mike in front of other people and get their reaction. If they don't react, force them to do so. If they react, it's story. In neighbouring country it happens as well. Why ask them about a film star in India.

And if asked and the politician says yes security should be given, its again story and we have screaming news readers on our screens. If the politician acts mischievously to get the whole nation go hysteric, he will deliberately issue a statement that will send all our channels go ballistic.
Yashwant Sinha
Similar is the case of the movie, 'Vishwaroopam'. Our is a unique democracy. Everyone has the right to speak or stage a demonstration. We have the right to protest, which is important. If a section protests, there is always a way out, deal with them in a tough manner. 

When the movie was cleared by censore, it should be screened. If one or two groups staged protests, the Hindi channels that are rarely interested in Tamil Nadu and the serious issues there, get all worked up. This time they sensed it would get them eyeballs. So let everyone about the protest.

Project it as if all Muslims are protesting against the movie. Paagal ho kya? But then, positions are taken. Reporters take stand, rather than remaining 'impartial bystanders'. Suddenly it seems free speech or our freedom is under threat.

Arrey bhai, from 'Billu Barber' to 'Jodha Akbar' or from 'Bandit Queen' to 'Jism 2' or 'Dam 999', there is no dearth of similar controversies. 

But if one or two Muslim groups protest, it becomes minority issue! Every year Bajrang Dal members go in various cities, targeting couples and shops selling gifts on Valentine's Day. Does it make it all Hindus against V-Day. They do it because they know ten people raising slogans will be shown by TV channels, not a report on malnutrition.

Further, this report will propel them to stardom. Local cops will be recognising them as Netas, stop questioning them on street. Even if they don't have any support, you can turn them into a nationwide well-known outfit just because of some tamasha.

A 'gamchha' on the shoulder is their passport to any office and they will be able to mediate in issues, sort out land deals, get works done without paying bribe [instead they can take commission from person who approaches them for work].

Epidemics in rural UP or caste violence in Tamil Nadu or even migration of tribals from Bundelkhand will never be an issue. You just need 10 people who are ready to shout and claim, 'We will not let it happen', to make it to a national issue.

Kamal Hassan
Firstly, it is not just a fringe, it is a micro minuscule fringe. But you give space to them. Then, you let it become an issue by giving disproportionately more coverage than it deserves. After that keep asking others for their opinion. 

From political leaders to intellectuals and CMs. So if there was no issue, it becomes an issue. How come? There are 120 crore people and as many opinions.

Daily there will be issues in some places, naturally. Will this be used to issue war cries and make cynical statements like 'cultural emergency' because of a nonsense somewhere in the 32 lakh sqkm land of this country?
Intellectuals can argue on free speech but the truth is on ground level, it's an altogether different scenario. In Europe, there is free speech to such an extent that they write about religious figures in extremely offensive way.
But at the same time, if someone questions that whether Jews faced Holocaust, he gets jailed. In India, we have so many communities and groups. We have different form of tolerance. We have a culture of coexistence.
In India, ordinary folk [not the urban middle class] feel that 'if our fellow brother feels offended, should his feelings be hurt'. People say, 'Kisi ke baare mein ghalat nahi dikhana chahiye'. Perhaps, some more educated guys may feel differently.
When photos of religious figures are printed on clothes or holy symbols on footwear in America or West, we feel offended and protest. It is also a right. Let the ones who are offended, feel it. But don't let the voice of ten people overshadow others just because a vast majority doesn't want to comment or speak on every damn thing.



They need not speak and prove their allegiance or stand each time. Then, these reports are aired, repeated in such a manner so as to whip sentiments and also polarize society. Please, can't we lead our lives in our own manner. Getting Shiv Sena leader lecture the society on right to freedom of expression is another interesting aspect.

But then, versions that can create war of words is required. There is outrage visible subsequently. People react, off line and online, begin tweeting frantically, writing on Facebook. Hindi media watchdogs had rightly said, 'News TV is a Bhasmasur'.

It is a monster. Stop this hysteria. Fed up. Farooq Sheikh rightly said in this interview about a section with 'vested interests'. The first ten minutes of Sagarika Ghose's Face the Nation (FTN) are must watch. I believe that this war for TRP is harming our society, seriously.

No, we are not becoming more intelligent or aware because of the explosion of news around us. All this is making us more dumb than ever. Big circus. After reading the above nonsense, do you feel offended?