It’s yesterday once more — thank you, The Carpenters. Or rather, it seems like last week once more. Or the week before that…
On Tuesday, we watched Ramdev tell us that his magic potion, Coronil, had successfully treated coronavirus patients, (ABP News); last Tuesday, he had said it could “cure” and prevent the coronavirus infection, at a widely covered press conference. This week’s coyness about “a cure” came from doubts over the claim.
Last week, India’s news channels huffed and puffed until they brought China down, from its lofty heights in the Galwan Valley — in their TV studios, of course. They vowed to teach ‘Jitler’ (India TV’s nasty jibe at Chinese President Xi Jinping) a lesson, and pulverise the country into “pulp” (Times Now).
Modi govt’s ‘gift’ for channels
This week, they have been playing TikTok, Hickory Dickory Dock war games with the Chinese apps, which were banned by the Narendra Modi government Monday. Into this “digital strike”, they were ably led by Deepak Chaurasia attired in his atmanirbhar Indian clothes (NewsNation), chanting “Mein bhi sainik (I am a soldier too)”.
Alongside him, Arnab Goswami sang ‘The battle hymn of the Republic’ (it’s actually a song) and gave a stirring performance. The words he used to describe the Modi government’s action apply equally to him: he surprised the enemy with the “suddenness…. the sheer suddenness…” of his moves, “the unexpected nature… the unpredictability…” of his moves, which included arms zooming out like stealth bombers – a manoeuvre, sadly, hampered by his buttoned-down jacket. Goswami said the Chinese didn’t know what had hit them, nor did viewers.
All the news channels celebrated the ban: “China App-o-calypse,” crowed India Today; the “real strike still to come”, warned India TV; while Zee News hailed India’s “soft power” and then likened it to the surgical strike in Balakot. “The dragon,” announced CNN News 18, “has been left fuming…sees red”.
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So delighted were news channels by this virtual strike that their joy spilled into Tuesday, overshadowing even Prime Minister Modi’s 4 pm address to the nation on the extension of free food grains to 80 crore people.
After complimenting the PM, the channels hastily returned to their mobile phones to check out TikTok — the India Today reporter admitted she “cannot download it”, almost regretfully. Indeed, several Hindi channels played out many TikTok videos in a farewell gesture, and Mirror Now, CNN News18 spoke to TikTok stars.
Gandhis still the ‘prime’ enemy
Last week’s frontal assault on the other enemy of the state, a.k.a. Congress a.k.a. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, continued too, with Times Now leading Republic TV in this onslaught: both of them, Wednesday afternoon, went after another target in the family with ‘Breaking News’ headlines: “Trouble for Robert Vadra,” said Times Now, adding that he was likely to be summoned by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which had booked “his aide” Sanjay Bhandari.
On Tuesday, a new evening show saw Times Now anchors Rahul Shivshankar and Navika Kumar join forces to lead the charge in an ‘Explosive’ offensive against them: “Cong secret pact” with businessman Mehul Choksi, in which he donated money to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF), was the latest allegation. This followed reported revelations of other deals for the RGF with the Chinese.
Meanwhile, have we seen the end of Arnab Goswami’s feud with the Gandhi-Maino-Vadra clan now that ‘#RepublicDefeatsSonia’? The channel claimed this triumph after the Bombay High Court stayed further proceedings in two FIRs filed against him in connection with his reporting on the Palghar lynching incident – so now what? Wait for this evening…
Let Sushant RIP
For more than a fortnight, some news channels have been doggedly tracing another story. Aaj Tak, Zee Hindustan and News18 India, in particular, are still looking for clues to the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who died by suicide, according to the Mumbai Police. News18 India and Zee Hindustan reported claims made on Twitter that Rajput’s Wikipedia page was updated with the information about his death even before he had died. (However, it was later revealed that the difference was due to the time zone.) Aaj Tak has been looking at Rajput’s contract with Yash Raj Films and other channels are playing highlights from his best films and snippets from the songs. Why can’t we let Rajput RIP?
With all this going on, who has time for a story that has been going on since the middle of March? Very few. The PM spoke at length in his Tuesday speech on the coronavirus, but this did not prompt many news channels to shift their gaze from China or the Gandhis to the pandemic.
Increasingly, the disease has been reduced to a series of numbers – five lakh cases in India, 80,000 cases in Delhi, etc — magic screen graphs and ‘unlockdown’ updates. For the most-watched Hindi and English news channels such as ABP News, Aaj Tak, India TV, Times Now, Republic TV, it is no longer a prime time discussion topic. CNN News18, Mirror Now, and NDTV 24×7, however, have continued with more in-depth coverage.
Finally, for a laugh, have you watched a TV commercial, which is perhaps a commentary on the state of the media? It begins with a sad-looking polar bear. A TV reporter appears on the scene. Why is the polar bear so sad, she asks. Enter a man who suddenly starts smearing the walls of the enclosure with Birla White Wall Care putty. Immediately, the polar bear perks up and all is well. A polar bear, in an advertisement for an Indian audience, reported by a TV reporter?
What is there left to say about TV news…
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