Most of us will agree that my former medium, tv information, has been decreased to tawdry leisure. So, I’m something however a supporter of what passes off for prime time as of late. If something, I consider, tv anchors have grow to be parodies of themselves, self-caricatures if such a factor is feasible. And I’d dismiss all of it with a scornful snigger if broadcast information weren’t so harmful in fanning misogyny, communalism, faux information and divisiveness.
But, as rankings are paused amid a raging controversy over how eyeballs are measured and the way rigged these numbers could be, the meltdown within the TV information trade is just not going to cleanse the system; it can solely weaken it additional.
What’s occurring in the meanwhile — the police confrontation with Republic TV in Mumbai, the channels at battle with one another, the viewers sniggering from the perimeters crafting memes from the free comedian materials — could look faintly like a purge. It’s the precise reverse.
First, my greatest quarrel with tv information this 12 months has been its failure to report on the largest problems with our occasions. So, whether or not it was the talk-centric protection of the Covid-19 pandemic or the saturation protection of the Sushant Singh Rajput tragedy; primarily TV sidestepped points that basically mattered — well being, drugs, the financial system, the impoverishment of migrant staff and the standoff with China.
The navel-gazing quarrels amongst information networks is another excuse to deflect and distract from journalism. It’s a collision of a number of (largely male) egos, all claiming to be higher than the opposite.
The reality is that each information channel is a variant of the opposite and the distinction is one among diploma. And there’s a complete lot of hypocrisy and humbug within the dialog. Take one media group, for example, which has positioned itself as a supposedly extra enlightened platform. It complained bitterly after the dialog of one among its reporters was leaked into the general public area whereas she was masking the Hathras case. That protest was completely justified. However it didn’t hesitate to throw the privateness argument to the wind and use leaked WhatsApp exchanges whereas masking the Rhea Chakraborty case. And its sister channel vilified and slandered Rhea, utilizing the phrase kala jaadu or black magic in her context, whereas the English counterpart determined to place itself in distinction to the opposite English channelson the identical story.
In lots of instances, the Arnabification of English information is a mirror picture of fault-lines of Indian politics. Simply as India’s Opposition has struggled to search out an efficient counter-narrative to the rise of Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, most information channels have didn’t develop their very own authentic voice to tackle what the brand new regular in tv information has grow to be. Similar to the Congress flirted with Hindutva-lite in some elections to tackle the entrenched Hindutva politics of the Bharatiya Janata Get together (BJP), information channels have embraced, in a single kind or the opposite, the format of the ‘shouty’ debate, templated first by Arnab Goswami.
The similarities don’t finish there. Consider Rahul Gandhi’s political narrative. A lot of it’s rooted in telling us what’s flawed with the philosophy and insurance policies of PM Modi. However we all know little or no of what Gandhi himself stands for, when not benchmarking himself towards the BJP. Equally, it’s not sufficient for information networks to say that they’re in some way extra distinguished as a result of they aren’t like a competitor. Neither is it sufficient for channels to say ethical superiority as a result of they don’t screech and slander. Evaluating your self to the competitors and defining your self towards it solely will get you to date and no extra.
What individuals, each whereas voting or whereas watching tv, search is similar — to know what you stand for and whether or not you may inform a narrative that captures their creativeness and holds their consideration. A Me-Too model of the unique product, even when milder, tamer, politer, extra bland and better-behaved, doesn’t work. Not in politics. And never in journalism.
Tv information died the day it stopped telling the tales of individuals. When it fell into the lure of a less expensive, studio-driven mannequin, it turned a twisted model of radio. Photos turned rarer and rarer, although this was meant to be a platform for visible storytelling.
And as soon as debates turned the staple, they needed to be jazzed up with the drama and dialectics of confrontation to make them extra entertaining.
On this universe of clones, the one that dares to be herself would be the solely disruptor.
Barkha Dutt is an award-winning journalist and writer
The views expressed are private