When India Today flashed, ‘PM’s all-out attack on Cong’, to describe Narendra Modi’s speech in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday, it seemed like ‘yesterday once more’. Although the channel repeatedly called it ‘Modi Sarkar 2.0’, it felt increasingly like Modi 1.0 – attacks on the opposition and the Congress, in particular, have been the Prime Minister’s favourite past time since 2014.
The PM is a master communicator and knows better than anyone how to craft his messaging, so this is said with great hesitation: isn’t it time, Mr Prime Minister, that you found a new target for your attacks?
As for the news channels, no sooner had Modi completed his speech in the Lok Sabha Tuesday, they started discussing his condemnation of the Congress and the Emergency of 25 June 1975. From Times Now to Republic to NDTV 24×7, they travelled back 44 years to debate that ‘blot’ on democracy.
For the last one month, since 23 May Lok Sabha election results, TV news has been hunting down what remains of Rahul Gandhi’s reputation and the Congress’s inability to pick itself up from the floor, dust itself off and start out all over again.
And that would be fine. The Congress and Rahul Gandhi, in complete disarray, have provided fresh ammunition each day. TV news channels could not resist exposing Rahul’s indifference to parliamentary behaviour when they showed him endlessly studying his mobile phone during the President’s address to a joint session of Parliament.
But we are now bored out of our minds with the shenanigans of the Congress.
So, television news needs to take a fresh aim and train anchors on subjects and issues other than the Gandhis.
Last week’s coverage of children’s deaths in Bihar, notwithstanding the unnecessary grandstanding, is the way forward. However, this week, the news channels seem to have relapsed again into the easy, even lazy, way out with politics as usual.
Definitely unusual is the manner in which ‘BJPBatBratMLA’ wielded the sports accessory as a weapon of public rebuke (Times Now). Videos of the offender, taking a cricket bat to a municipal worker, hit the news channels hard Wednesday and they were merciless in exposing him: ‘VVIPNetagiriShocksIndore,’ exclaimed NewsX. It shocked viewers too.
Mike Pompeo would have been equally shocked. Hope the US Secretary of State didn’t get a chance to watch TV news during his official visit to India.
Now there are cricket bats and then there are brickbats and sometimes they go together. This brings us to some absolutely incredible coverage of cricket from that great sportscaster, DD Sports.
Truly, it has achieved the impossible: it has shown flair and creativity to fashion a marvellously unique coverage of the World Cup, which no one else could have imagined, let alone executed with such expertise.
Question: how do you do deliver live TV coverage of a cricket World Cup match without once showing a bat or a ball, or players or even the match? You listen to the radio? Wrong answer.
The correct answer is that you join ‘ICC World Cup Adda 2019 Live’ on DD Sports. Here, two individuals, sometimes three, sit and periodically train their eyes on the TV monitor while they discuss anything even remotely connected to the game of cricket although not necessarily connected to the game at hand – for the entire duration of the match being played out in England.
For instance, during Tuesday’s critical match between Australia and England with the latter at 70-4, anchor Gitanjali asked her guest Radheshyam what he thought about players being accompanied by their families to international competitions.
“After an entire day’s play, when the body is breaking, you need two minutes relaxation…” and what better than spending time with your wife and children, he replied. Of course, he added, if there is a girlfriend involved, the ‘social structure’ in India doesn’t allow for such things.
After a few more words of wisdom on this matter, Gitanjali broke in, “You will hear things you cannot hear anywhere else…,” she announced, more truthfully than she could imagine.
After a very short break – there are seldom any commercials on the channel – Gitanjali returned to discuss a previous World Cup encounter between England and Australia in India (1987). And from a gentleman, whose name was inaudible, we heard about David Boon and his ‘ferocious upper cut’.
All of this when Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc had just bowled a ferocious yorker to disturb the furniture behind Ben Stokes, and take his crucial wicket.
We know Doordarshan does not have the rights to the World Cup; we know it doesn’t have much money to spend on frippery pursuits like cricket. In which case, it should simply stay at home and telecast repeats of the national games from 2013.
Still, whoever invented the Adda on DD Sports deserves a Nobel prize for innovation. If that prize doesn’t exist, they’ll invent one, just as they did this Adda.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.