Tuesday, December 6, 2022
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DD News is Covid ‘positive’. It shows a sanitised version of the pandemic

If you watch DD News, you will not feel “the sense of abandonment”, as BBC World termed it, of a people “left to do what the government should have done”.

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What is the difference between DD News and private news channels like a Times Now or a Republic TV? Not much, come to think of it.

At least, not this week.

If, amid the catastrophic surge in coronavirus cases across the country totalling 55 per cent of all global cases (India Today)DD News decided that the most urgent topic to discuss on Tuesday prime time was Delhi’s five-star Ashoka Hotel’s conversion into a Covid-19 facility for the high court’s judges and staff by the AAP government, so did Times Now, the same night. 

If DD News constantly urged viewers to remain calm and ‘Mask Up’, Republic TV exhorted us #StayStrongIndia. And when DD News rattled off the names of all the countries that have offered India assistance, Republic TV boasted, ‘World is with India’.

This is positive messaging at its best, and not of the Covid-19 kind, either. Like vaccines, it’s being used to boost our immunity system – our psychological and emotional immunity – in these dark and deadly days.

Also read: More people died of Covid in Delhi in last 4 days than in Mumbai since March

Discussion replaces debate

Uncharacteristically, the combative, divisive political shouting games that play out on such news channels have been shunned, replaced by Q&As with doctors – on Republic TV and Times Now, besides NDTV 24×7 and India Today, which had made a habit of holding medical advice sessions since the pandemic hit us last year.

DD News has taken this to another level – it runs a daily ‘Doctors Speak’ for several hours — morning, afternoon and evening — as if it was a general hospital OPD.

‘Hear the experts – What is the science of wearing masks’ is not the kind of headline you’d expect to see on Times Now debate but there it was Monday evening on ‘Janta Jawaab Maange’ with Rahul Shivshankar’; ‘What more should India do now?’ Republic TV asked its panel of medicine men. Well, well, well, as Alice in Wonderland might have observed if she could have observed Indian news TV.

Also read: Server hiccup, no slots, one crore people registered in 4 hrs — How CoWIN performed on day 1

Behind the change in programme

Why do private channels look and sound like DD News? Perhaps because in this national emergency of incalculable human proportions, the political spin they usually give an issue, won’t quite work this time — it’s difficult to pin this on Rahul Gandhi, Lutyens’ Delhi, the ‘tukde tukde gang’, et cetra, et cetra, for the ravages of the virus, although CNN News 18 gave it tweak, Friday with ‘Anti-India lobbies highjacking narrative…’

It’s proving equally difficult to peddle a narrative that makes the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party look better than the other political parties when Uttar Pradesh is the second worst-hit state by Covid-19, currently, from where heartrending stories emerge — ‘No tests, no kits’, said Mirror Now after its correspondent called up 10 clinical laboratories in Lucknow and found five refuse tests and the other five say they had no test kits.

NDTV India talked to relatives of three patients who died due to lack of oxygen at a Meerut hospital; ABP found long lines for oxygen in Lucknow and furious people in Ghaziabad accusing the government of lying about the easy availability of the breath of life…

For once, then, the toxicity was missing from the usual suspects: “We will fight this and will emerge victorious’, pronounced Republic TV — just the kind of cheerleading you would expect on DD News.

Is this the new narrative, for now? Yes and no. The leading news channels haven’t abdicated the responsibility to report the situation on the ground, “gasping”, for example, at what NDTV India called the ‘national oxygen emergency’ — “20 die gasping for oxygen in Delhi,” reported Times Now.

That’s not a headline you will read on DD News — along with urging viewers to wear masks, the national broadcaster appears to have washed its hand of bad news.

Also read: 70% Indians not aware that all above 18 will be eligible to take Covid vaccine

The DD presenters

The masked news presenters of DD News provide a sanitised version of each day’s developments. First, you will hear of all the measures the central government has taken, will take or is planning to take to fight the virus; you will receive very useful data on Covid-19, usually beginning with the number of people vaccinated, followed by the number of people tested, the recovery rate and then the fresh number of cases and deaths. There is a wrap-up of state numbers, lockdowns, etc. And then, maybe the Oscars…

Thereafter, DD News holds counseling sessions with experts.

You will see none of the coverage you do on other news channels, or experience “the sense of abandonment”, as BBC World termed it, of a people “left to do what the government should have done”.

Of people dragging bodies to the crematorium (Aaj Tak), tying them to the roof of their cars (NDTV 24×7), transporting them in three-wheelers (Mirror Now) – bodies piled up on top of each other like sacks of potato, in ambulances (News X), bodies waiting to be cremated by despairing families (Republic TV)… bodies, bodies “burning bright” in the forest of the night, city after city (Zee Hindustan).

You will not see the O2 queues of empty cylinders alongside people (India TV), while one patient received oxygen in an ambulance (India Today) and another sat in an ambulance without any oxygen (NDTV 24×7); you will not see the black market for oxygen (News 18 India), and in Patna, where it sells for Rs 50,000 a cylinder, according to Zee News.

On DD News, there’s little about the hunt for the drug remdesivir, of no beds in hospitals (India Today in Raipur and Delhi), of no admission in hospitals (ABP News) or the newly-created hospital facilities in Delhi’s Chhattarpur (India TV)  a man screamed, insanely, outside the Sardar Patel Centre after he had waited three hours to admit his mother: she died in the autorickshaw.

In the face of all the evidence piling up, like the bodies, DD News has remained steadfast in its determination to report, as far as possible, constructive news developments, to convey the greatest human tragedy a post-Partition generation has seen through numbers.

And maybe, it’s the right way: maybe, we do need one channel where we don’t have to watch our version of the Apocalypse Now or Contagion, every hour — didn’t the poet T.S Eliot warn us, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality”?

Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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  1. Quoting BBC in the headlines complaining why Doordarshan is not reporting like it? That is the eye catching headline.
    So why drag in the white man’s tv to make your point?

  2. But exactly when has DD been harbinger of truth. Its very purpose is to be Government’s mouth piece. Remember DD news daily coverage of Rajiv Gandhi wearing all kinds of head gears and dancing with women around India while totally giving Kalahandi famine a total miss?

    Its no different today

  3. Even in the present state, Arnob cannot give up boasting ‘the whole world is with India’.

    The reality is while the rest of the world sympathasizes with the plight of Indians, it puts the blame on Modi.

    Earlier, Arnob disdained any foreign criticism of the vishwa guru, the mighty Hindu nation.

    Gone is some of Arnob’s swagger. He was discussing with the medics like a gentleman about how to bring the curve down. But while not praising the govt., he was not demanding of the govt. in the same accusatory tone (Poochta Hai Bharat) he used to apply to Muslims and the seculars who pamper them. This is the man who accused Muslims of waging ‘corona jihad’. Can he say the same of Hindus ?

    What has failed is more than the system, Modi or the govt. – what has failed is Hindutva.

    Hindutva breeds murderers, criminals and uneducated incompetents. To those who say the public is guilty, I say that is correct. The public voted repeatedly for murderers, criminals and uneducated incompetents. One gets the government one deserves.

    If India wants to come out of the pits and join the rest of the world, it has to abandon its love affair with Hindutva, and work its way up. Being a superpower is not an entitlement due to size, and respect cannot be demanded by force. One has to give up Hindu exceptionalism drummed into heads, by Hindutva brainwashing. There are no short cuts to nation building but hard work, morality and principles.

  4. No surprises. Hardly any media outlets left in India which are non partisan and independent. BJP has literally bought them along with Supreme Court and EC.

    God only can save india from Modi

  5. Today I went for testing, there was a family who tested positive and the medical guy gave him this advice, maybe it will help this author too.

    Drink warm water, gargle, don’t eat too much rice and don’t watch TV news, too much negativity! – He literally said all of this, wise words.

  6. GRADMA hates present BJP government. Loves the FAMILY who have always supported RENTED JOURNALISTS.

    Even in deaths due to pandemic she sees politics and her RESENTFUL ATTITUDE AND VICIOUSNESS IS FULL ON.

  7. So what should DD do – create panic as per sold out Lutyens media? Your time is up, this is a difficult situation for my India but we’ll recover and emerge stronger, unlike Congress and its stooges.

  8. Private TV channels are indulging in vulture journalism. The job of a journalist is to inform without belittling the dignity of the deceased.

  9. If one over eats and continues to do that, the dysentery is inevitable.
    Should the intelligent discussion be about the cause or a graphic description of the effect.
    The choice is obviously between intent to sell or help correction.

    • Sad but true. And we wait for the government that we are to do something.

      But something more has happened this time. People using social media to communicate availability of beds and cylinders and not dependent totally on government and media to influence their fate. Yes people have succumbed,y yes people have recovered. But the degree of scathing and reporting seem to have different tone and tenor and derision for US than for India.

      Simply, tragedies are insinuated to be bigger faults in India due to simply actionable unaccountability- of governments and people. Governments cannot be accountable if people themselves are not. And the mindset to bash up tragedies as faults to fulfil I told you so mindset will keep us down. Mortality meet in America are about where the system went wrong and how can we correct it, such meets in India are about whom to pin the blame on and what the punishment should be. We need to proactively come out of blame game but with clear intent to make systems better (though no system is perfect)

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