Thursday, April 11, 2013

“Not a country for goons” true for politicians; true also for news channels….

Yesterday, Times Now carried a provocative banner for a long time (or maybe throughout the day). Making an assertion that “India is not a country for goons. This is our country. Not the goons’ etc etc” (these are my words, but the sentiment is the same). The channel was obviously referring to politicians. The immediate provocation was perhaps Tytler’s case getting re-opened and the TMC’s vandalism at the Presidency University in Kolkata. I have no problem with such journalism. But I only wish the channel pointed the mirror at itself and its fellow compatriots in media as well.

For the media is increasingly filled with the same kind of tactics that politicians have forever been accused of: hyper aggressive, unbothered about the law, abusive in language, attacking each other without any proof, etc etc. The truth is that even more than politicians, it is the media now that should be accused of adopting such tactics.

What do you say to a panel discussion in which 3 members out of 6 are from the BJP, and only 1 from the Congress? If this is not visible bias in the anchor’s beliefs, what is? Decorum would suggest that the panel be evently constituted, no? Isn’t the anchor who puts together such a panel a goon or a thug himself?

And what about journalists who are permanent fixures on TV? Isn’t it almost predictable what they will say, knowing their political orientation, no matter what the subject of discussion? A Vinod Sharma (HT) (he’s stopped coming on TV these days), or Kumar Ketkar are decidedly pro-Congress and will defend the party no matter what. On the other hand, Swapan Dasgupta, Prabhu Chawla, MJ Akbar, and scores more (the BJP is a bigger player here) are so colored in BJP ideology that they cannot separate their love for the party from the issue on hand. Aren’t these journos not goons in a way?

And what about TV channels that intentionally wrongly identify panelists so that more credibility can be attributed to their statements? For long, Meenakshi Lekhi kept getting introduced as “Supreme Court Lawyer”, when in fact she was the head of some BJP Women’s wing or something. Or Kirron Kher as a Bollywood actor when in fact, she also is a full fledged BJP member. And Ryan Karanjawala as another lawyer, when in fact he is Arun Jaitley’s college buddy and in fact, fellow election-contester back then? I now suspect most people who come on TV come with an agenda; only it is not identified. I say this is done intentionally because I have pointed out this glitch to some of these anchors, and while all of them have acknowledged the mistake, they have kept making it for longer. Aren’t all of these people who appear under a false identity goons?

And what about channels that put together ex-army generals from Pakistan and India on their show and get them to fight a verbal duel with each other; even threatening both countries with nuclear war and all. Add a couple of self-appointed “experts” (essentially discarded ex armymen) and you get the picture. Jingoism to the extreme. Raising the pitch so much that an actual war might actually break out, endangering national security. What about such activities? Any less than the goon like stuff politicians do????

So I find it strange that a TV channel should pretend to be such a torch bearer of morality as to call politicians goons, but ignore the fact that it and its compatriots are nothing but the same. It is because of such TV channels that the entire TV news category has become a blot on journalism itself. No one takes TV news seriously. That is why no one watches them. In the week ended 30th March this year, NDTV 24x7 was the number 1 English news channel, but its ranking was 264th amongst the channels. Can you believe that? With 0.53 GRPs, it obviously trailed all language channels, but it also trailed other English genres like movies (Star Movies – 10 GRPs), wildlife (Animal Planet – 7), education (History – 6), fashion (Fashion TV – 1.5), action (AXN – 1.5), travel and lifestyle (NDTV Good Times – 0.86) and general entertainment (Star World – 0.74). Here’s further ignominy. In a country in which the number 1 English business newspaper (Economic Times) is less than a quarter of the number 1 English general newspaper (The Times of India) in readership, business news channels have managed to score on par with general news channels (and sometimes even go past them). Is this not indicative of what our people think of our news tv channels and their anchors? That they are all goons?

This is not to say that there are not a lot of goons in the political class. There are. The mobsters of the Trinamool are worse even than those of the Left. None of them care for the students. The MLAs of NCP, BJP and Congress who pressurized the Mumbai Police into sacking a low level traffic cop for simply doing his job are all goons. So also are corrupt politicians like the Congress’s Kripashankar Singh and the BJP’s Nitin Gadkari. So I am not denying that many politicians are not goons. All I am saying is that our TV anchors should be the last ones to call politicians goons. They have a lot of soul searching to do themselves.

The real truth is that anyone who has power becomes a goon in India. The political class obviously is the biggest abuser of power. But the media is not far behind. It realizes it has enormous power. TV news channels love to flash their power. In fact, a TV channel once ran a proud promo “We got this CM sacked”. Now you decide, who is the bigger goon – the politician or the tv channel anchor????

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