Viewers suffer many types of fatigue, especially, during election result coverage.
If you switched on the TV Wednesday afternoon and read, ‘Cong set to form government in MP – divided over CM choice?’ (Republic), followed by ‘Sonia: Win over BJP’s negative politics’ (Times Now), you might have thought you were travelling back in time to when Congress, under Madame Gandhi used to form governments and not underperform at the hustings.
Alternatively, you might turn away with a big yawn, agree with finance minister Arun Jaitley’s remark on the ‘fatigue factor’ to which he attributed BJP’s electoral losses, Tuesday night.
Forsooth, news-views of the five state assembly elections since last Friday’s exit polls wore us down. Only former RBI Governor Urjit Patel’s surprise resignation, Monday evening, gave everyone from the government to the media an almighty jolt – like the one the BJP suffered with ‘Super Tuesday’s’ poll verdict (Republic).
You were tired, understandably, of four days’ of poll show and wanted to return to watching more cricket, after India’s famous first Test victory Down Under (Sony 6), or to Shashi (‘Saashi’), he of the delectable spices, on Masterchef Australia (Star World).
Perhaps, perversely almost, you welcomed the sight and sound of Congress leaders Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kamal Nath and Ashok Gehlot, politicians you’ve seen, rarely, in the last four years.
Yes, ‘the fatigue factor’ does come into play, as the FM said. And in ways he could not have imagined.
Viewers suffer many types of fatigue, especially, during election result coverage. For instance, we were as exhausted as the TV anchors by Tuesday night: ‘#December11with Times Now’, ‘#December11 with Arnab’, Prannoy, Rajdeep, Bhupendra, et cetera, went live from 7 am to 11 pm, by which time none of us cared where Madhya Pradesh went—we’d gone to bed.
If the anchors were lively throughout this 16-hour marathon, perhaps the results had given them a rude awakening, too. Friday’s exit polls indicated Congress gains in the Hindi heartland but the margins, in each case, were kept wide enough to accommodate BJP victories in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh – and nobody but nobody expected 3-0 for the Congress.
Then there was result fatigue and no-result fatigue. As the numbers tumbled out of the counting booths sooner than we did out of bed, it was impossible to keep up with the ‘leadings’ in five states, thoughtfully screened by all channels. Watch DD News’ Janadesh instead: Here, the figures roll out, one state at a time, in stately progression (oh, a pun!). Also, we the viewers take leadings for the final result and are so very upset, fed up, fatigued by ‘decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse’ (T.S. Eliot).
Another weariness: Channel-hop, skip and jump. When Zee News showed Congress 93/ BJP 80, Times Now had Cong 103 /BJP 70. Enough to give supporters of either party heart attacks – no wonder, Prannoy Roy issued a ‘health warning’ (NDTV 24×7) and Navika Kumar said ‘keep faith’ with one channel (Times Now). Switching channels all day, looking for the result we wanted, cramped the thumbs.
Counting day sees countless panellists spend the entire day changing their opinions each time the numbers changed. Of course, they are paid to do so, but frankly, we’re tired of seeing so many psephologists, former psephologists-turned politicians (Yogendra Yadav and GVL Narasimha Rao), academics, individuals described as ‘political analyst’ and young party spokespersons we don’t know, all parroting: ‘Our party will form the next government’. What is annoyingly tiresome is that they talk and talk but their names are withheld. Grr.
Gizmo fatigue: This particular affliction goes viral every election. We have ‘magic walls’ (CNN News18), ‘live margin calculators’ (India Today), ‘Spectrum’ (Times Now), which does the same thing as the margin calculator, and reams of data that tell us of ‘swingers’, the swing factor and who is swinging by how much towards whom? Got it? Tired already.
There’s issue fatigue too: We’re weary of TV news picking up where politicians left off and talking about chai wala, chowkidar, naamdaar-kaamdaar, chor, Rafale, AgustaWestland, cows, mandir and parivar. In most election result debates, anchors blamed rural distress for the BJP’s losses but when, last, did they debate agrarian issues?
And honestly, the BJP needs a new TV line up: If we see Sambit Patra and Rao for another four months, every single day on TV, we will vote for the opposition. Tired of the same old people saying the same thing. Tired of the incessant noise, the rudeness, crudity, and the endless chatter about nothing. Tired even of the same TV anchors – no offence – their super debates, burning questions, face-offs, reality checks, what have you.
Perhaps, we’re just tired of television news.
What we are not tired of is top political leaders holding press conferences and answering questions like Congress President Rahul Gandhi did, Tuesday evening. Prime Minister Modi, who never addresses the press, might like to follow his lead?