The Indian news media is beginning to increasingly resemble Bigg Boss (Colors TV).
If the reality show boasts of 90-plus cameras tracking the inmates of the house, moment by moment, there are at least 30 national news channels in India tracking so many bits of information so rapidly, your head is fairly spinning in a 360-degree asana — maybe, Baba Ramdev can teach that to Arnab Goswami the next time he sits him down for a yoga lesson (Republic TV)? Just joking…
Another similarity with Bigg Boss: just like the show’s contestants, news channels disagree or diverge, leaving you even more dazed.
Take Wednesday morning: India Today said “Supreme relief for BSY” after the Supreme Court delivered its verdict, no not on Ayodhya, but on the disqualification of 17 MLAs in Karnataka. Times Now reported that Congress asked for “BSY’s resignation”, while NDTV 24×7 aired the Supreme Court’s observations, no not on Ayodhya or Karnataka but on Delhi’s air pollution hazard.
CNN News18 was also at the Supreme Court but on another judgment — tomorrow’s “SC verdict on Sabarimala” and by early afternoon, news channels were all hailing yet another SC verdict — “#CJI Under RTI” (News X).
By then, India Today had raced across to Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University as students’ protest “erupts again” over the 300 per cent fee hike, which the sympathetic reporter compared to a service charge “like at a 5-star hotel”.
“5 sitara hotel” (Republic Bharat) was the venue of talks between the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress – and very much the focus of news reporters on Hindi channels that had lost interest in Supreme Court rulings after its Saturday Ayodhya verdict.
Channels transfixed by Maharashtra
When not offering prayers and bhajans in gratitude for the Ayodhya verdict (ABP, News18 India) or sharing the latest visuals of the Ram Mandir (Aaj Tak, Zee News, India TV), these channels have been transfixed by the goings-on in Maharashtra.
“Sarkar Raj 2.0” (India TV) has been running like a suspense thriller for the last three weeks, and by Wednesday we had arrived at “Plan B kya hai?” (ABP) after President’s Rule was imposed Tuesday.
ABP said all parties had a Plan B, but the BJP had a Mission M after Mission K (in Karnataka where it had formed a government by attracting rebel Congress MLAs). Aaj Tak said that NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had stood up to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray — India TV lamented that “Uddhav neither here nor there”, adding in minatory tones, “Teen tigada, kaam bigada”.
But News 24 insisted, “the keys to power” remained with the BJP (it was also the only one to catch a glimpse of Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s adopted daughter Honeypreet in a “Mooh dikayee” after she left jail but that’s another story).
Meanwhile, India News was out catching fish — on the streets of Kanpur, News World was out watching an Indian Air Force formation fly past, for a second straight day and NDTV 24×7 was out watching the murky air in Delhi, while Mirror Now…
Isn’t your head reeling by now?
All caught unaware
The news channels have been riding a merry-go-round since Sunday when Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari gave Uddhav Thackeray 24 hours to show willingness to form a government after the BJP gave up.
“Dost…dost na raha” rang out on Aaj Tak, a dirge to the break in the 35-year relationship between the BJP and the Shiv Sena.
That was quickly succeeded by “Cong ki majboori, ab Power Pawar ke saath” as talks began on a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government.
Republic TV, Times Now, ABP, Aaj Tak were scornful of the “confusion ki khichdi” (Aaj Tak) that had produced a “maha milawat” (Navika Kumar, Times Now). And no one knew what was going on.
The mega confusion
Monday morning saw an “Uddhav sarkar” (CNN News18) after “Congress goes into a huddle” (Mirror Now) and “Sena dials Sonia” (Republic TV). Once Thackeray had met Pawar, India Today gushed, “At this point in time, we can say there will be a formal announcement.”By afternoon, India TV and Zee News said the Congress will “offer outside support”. Republic TV disagreed saying the Congress wants six ministers and the speaker’s post too.
By late afternoon, more ifs and buts arose — “Will Congress do an ideological somersault?” asked CNN News18. “Kursi ke liye kuch bhi karega?” speculated ABP.
In the evening, NDTV 24×7 announced that an agreement had been reached among the three parties, and CNN News18 said the Congress would offer outside support.However, before the people of Maharashtra could celebrate a government after 20 days in limbo, Times Now announced that “Uddhav scores own goal” as Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar “ditch(ed)” Uddhav Thackeray —and no, the governor didn’t give more time.
Times Now was right, NDTV 24×7 wrong.
Tuesday saw the same confusion over President’s Rule, best mirrored by Republic TV: while their headline read, “Sonia-Sena ideologies match” suggesting a tie-up, the ticker below said, “Govt recommends President’s Rule”. So, was there a tie-up, was there Presidents Rule?
NDTV 24×7, now extra cautious, flashed a Prasar Bharati tweet confirming imposition of President’s Rule, Times Now said the governor’s recommendation had been accepted by the Centre, India Today said no, there was no confirmation from Mumbai that the governor had acted, but CNN News18 felt the move was “imminent”…