Outside a hospital in Delhi | Screengrab | Photo: @aajtak | Twitter
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Ab bas karo 2020,’’ pleaded Aaj Tak Sunday. “How many more challenges will we face?” Coronavirus, cyclones, locusts, Delhi riots, riots in the US, forest fires, economic distress… It listed out an impressive catalogue of disasters that have already befallen the world – and India in particular – with six months still remaining in the year.

And indeed, watching television news, your eyes are rotating 360 degrees, your mind is whirring at a speed faster than the overhead fans, and after listening to doctors across news channels for three months, your body is displaying worrying symptoms — body ache, headache, oh no, sore throat.

Many of us are frightened these days and the news coverage on TV has only heightened the sense of anxiety.

If you live in Mumbai or Delhi, you may have taken to your bed by now and surrendered body and soul to ‘Ram bharose’ (ABP News) — a smart Aaj Tak anchor revised that to, ‘Ram bharose nahin, Modi bharose’ (will he get the first interview of 2020 with the Prime Minister for this vote of confidence?).

What else can you do when you hear the ABP News anchor declare with deep misgiving Wednesday that Mumbai is outstripping Wuhan in the number of coronavirus cases? In doomsday tones, she emphasised each figure as she pronounced, “5-1-0-0-0-0 cases already…” and then calmly asked the reporter in Mumbai, “Is it a cause for anxiety?”


Also read: Massive said Republic, gift said Zee News — TV channels outdid all in praise of Modi package


Not going to look beyond Delhi, Mumbai

Meanwhile, rajdhani mein, there are “1-0-0-0 cases a day,” said Times Now, Tuesday. “Systemic failures… the infrastructure is collapsing… the numbers are mounting…” said the anchor with almost unholy gloom.

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“Delhi health system in ICU,” added India TV, just in case you still harboured hopes for the national capital.

Republic TV then took us to Safdarjung Hospital and Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP) for a medical horror show: at Safdarjung, it found a dead body wrapped up on beds next to those of recovering patients. At LNJP, it discovered that a patient was actually missing.

All the while, news channels repeatedly flashed Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s claim, in expressionless tones, that by July the city will have 5.5 lakh cases.

NDTV India, NDTV 24×7India TV, and Mirror Now among others also visited hospitals where they found patients or their relatives describe what NDTV 24×7 called “harrowing experiences” – no beds, no treatment, deaths.

But, according to AAP leader Sanjay Singh, “46 per cent beds in government hospitals are available”.

“No bed in Delhi,” retorted CNN News18.

Appalled by this “Corona game” over beds? (ABP News). The ding-dong battle played out across news channels as politicians and anchors looked for people to blame… “Politicians are fighting amongst themselves, not corona…’’explained Aaj Tak’s anchor, Tuesday.


Also read: Don’t go looking for fire in TV news anchors’ belly. It’s China, not Pakistan


Anchors join the fight

Then, you had the BJP and Congress attack the AAP for its incompetence: “Why have they opened up Delhi?” asked Ajay Maken, Congress (ABP News) about Unlock 1, as malls and restaurants reopened in Delhi. And you had the AAP’s Atishi and Raghav Chadha hit back ferociously in arguments with anchors on India Today, CNN News18, etc.

Aaj Tak’s Rohit Sardana ticked off Atishi: you are getting upset just by the questions, he told her. Yes, because you interrupt me mid-sentence, she snapped.

Scientists and doctors didn’t tell you this but the coronavirus doesn’t just raise you temperature, it can make you very bad-tempered, too.

And why wouldn’t Atishi be angry? She had to defend Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to close Delhi’s borders, thereby denying patients from other places access to Delhi hospitals. “Is Delhi reserved for Delhi?” asked an enraged Times Now on #DelhiForAll.

It was a free-for-all on TV news: are there or are there not beds for all in Delhi hospitals? Is there community spread or is there not in Delhi? NDTV India introduced a new dimension to the problem: are there enough doctors in Delhi? What exactly is going on in Delhi?

Nobody knew. However, news channels faithfully visited hospitals, sought out patients and questioned the Delhi government, relentlessly.

This is commendable and reflects good journalistic practices. However, just wondering why no questions are being asked of Gujarat or Tamil Nadu governments, which also have high incidence of cases? In fact, when did you last see any major coverage of either state?

Earlier, Mumbai was the focus of TV news; now it’s Delhi. Besides being India’s two largest and most important metropolitan centres, with the highest number of coronavirus cases, they are also ruled by opposition parties. Just saying.


Also read: Is it politics that is dictating India’s testing policy or medical science?


Quakes in Delhi, change in US media

By the way, News 24, India Today and India Ahead had more bad news for jittery Delhi wallahs: “Are Delhi, NCR going to face a major jolt?” asked News 24.

“Big quake coming?” inquired India Today, reminding us that in two weeks, there had been more than 10 tremors in the national capital. After a quick and impressive data update on the Delhi quakes, the anchor turned to his expert: “What do you want to say about this?”

A big earthquake is possible in the Himalayan region but it’s not necessary it will impact Delhi, replied scientist K. Siddhartha. The anchor looked quite relieved.

Far away in the United States, the country is convulsed too, but not for geological reasons. The protests after the killing of George Floyd by a White policeman have so transfixed the nation that channels like CNN International swapped the coronavirus for racial violence as the news focus.

So much so, that the funeral of George Floyd Tuesday was reported with full state honours by CNN. In death, Floyd was a hero and got a hero’s send off from the news channel with live coverage throughout the formalities accompanied by glowing words “to celebrate George Floyd, his legacy”.

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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. Indian media is very close to Delhi. If an election takes place in Delhi, it is made to be seen by the media as though it is a national election. Even a small work fine by Delhi cm is magnified to a great extent, inspite of other cms doing same work. Hence, whatever small or big thing happens in Delhi, it is so magnified to a very large extent by National media.

  2. No point criticising this author as she is just behaving as per her ideology. These people are devoted to the cause. Nevertheless, just for the sake of objectivity, has this author ever pointed out similar biases in reporting of NDTV? Any comment made against jholachaap ravish and other NDTV commies, who are always spreading falsehood and negativity against BJP ruled states and central govt. Again, I dont expect any ‘fairness’ from this author and these commies in NDTV, News 24 etc. After all everything is fair in love & war. And this is war. This is not the bumbling trinity of vajpaye, advani & joshi. This is Modi, Yogi & Amit Shah. Get ready commies, the coming times are going to be even tougher.

  3. “hypocrisy ki bhi seema hoti hai”
    Your editior in chief – Mr. Shekhar Gupta himself has never mentioned Gujarat in his Cut the Clutter. The show should be renamed to “Filled with Cluttter”.

  4. I couldn’t stop myself by comparing Ms Shailaja Bajpai’s writings with high class political cartoons by equally high class cartoonists/artists.
    Wish our political leaders, media barons and their followers could follow witty, sarcastic and humorous writing style of Ms Bajpai and eventually introspects a bit.
    Sadly, in public sphere this side of human wizardry now a days term as a Sedition.
    Nation with out humour , sarcasm and wit is Deadpan !!!! That why Shailaja Bajpai’s observations and impressions should means a lot.

  5. When are publications like The Print, The Wire, Janta Ka Reporter, And ao called journos like Shekhar Gupta and his vindictive team, Shailaja Bajpai, Barkha, Vir Sanghvi, PB Mehta, Suhas Palshikar, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, aN Ram and many other who contiuuously defend the congress 24×7 there will be some channels who will try and find out the truth in congress ruled states. What is wrong in that. I never saw articles with such headings when Congress ruled with corruption as its hallmark for more than 60 years. Every media then was against the BJP and literally worshiped 10 JP family. It was only after Modi made it on his own and reached the pinnacle then some journos realised that Modi must be doing something good. Thats how a handful of journos started reporting on the good work by Modi and it continues today. We cant have a system where all journos defend the corrupt and communal congress day in and day out.

  6. Certainly there will be no end or respite from nature’s anger for prople unless each and every person including ministers, politicians, bearucrates, police officials. Judiciary but more partivularly Tv Chennels give up propgating falsehood based on communal or racsit ideology trying to make prople emotional fools to act as per there wishes and achive political gains.
    Be it RSS, BJP or CONGRESS all are sailing in the same boat only helping to devide prople proving more dagerous for humanity.
    They are vehemently telling to have achived their ill-concieved goals overtly or covertly. Good goverence. justice and equality are remotest things to be seen nowadays.
    These are Good days for common man who are dying hungry at roads, railway tracts without being noticed by anybody.

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