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NewsX to Republic: Siddhartha’s death shows how sensitive TV media can be when it wants

Everyone should ask TV reporters and anchors: how would you like it if your loved ones appeared on television news in a similar state?

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First, they killed him, speaking of him in the past tense before there was any confirmation of his death. Then, they mercilessly attacked him with their cameras – all for that perfect picture of his lifeless body for ‘exclusive’ live TV coverage or photographs in newspapers.

The disappearance and subsequent demise of V.G. Siddhartha, founder of Café Coffee Day, saw TV news channels flaunt their dedication to duty – for a ‘good’ story or photograph, they will do anything or go anywhere.

And so, it came to pass Wednesday morning, while viewers were yawning and stretching out of slumber, intrepid TV crews and photographers were already at the beach of the Netravati river in Mangaluru, hungrily feasting their cameras on the inert body of Siddhartha.

Also read: Siddhartha ‘suicide’: Economic slowdown & tax terror creating dread among Indian businesses?

Competing for the best view

Leading English news channels, which compete to claim the No.1 position in TV ratings, vied to capture the best view possible of the “coffee baron”. Times Now clearly showed us his shirtless but trouser-clad body — it blurred his face; India Today displayed its sensitivity by revealing his body through a mosaic — it also split the screen into four, to bring us different-angled shots of the cadaver.

News9 was much more decorous: it refrained from showing the body, only the police covering it, but it couldn’t resist branding its coverage ‘exclusive’.

CNN-News 18 was pretty darn imaginative: it went for still photographs of the “tycoon’s body” that highlighted even the tattoos on his arms. NewsX, Mirror Now, Republic TV and WION played the India Today trick of covering the body in a transparent film of mosaic so that wide-eyed viewers could see what lay beneath.

Sensitivity on display?

At some stage, WION and India Today turned the camera on other news crews and showed us a semi-circle of media-persons standing a few feet away from the body, elbowing out each other, trying to get closer and closer to the body.

And, where was the police all this while? Right there, looking on indulgently, perhaps even facilitating the shoot.

This is a reminder of how sensitive the media can be when it wants. Think back to the self-righteous reporters and TV news anchors who barged into the hospital wards and the ICUs in Bihar, rudely demanding answers from the medical staff, aiming their cameras at ailing young children during the encephalitis epidemic.

On Tuesday, when Siddhartha was reported missing from Monday evening, English news channels spent the day on the story, using a letter Siddhartha had allegedly written to the CCD board and speculated endlessly over why he had gone “missing”. NewsX rather needlessly wondered, “Is it suicide or murder?” “Is he missing or is it suicide?” asked ET Now.

Others spoke on him in the past tense: Raghu Krishnan, a business-tech journalist, extolled Siddhartha’s many successes and virtues, opening each sentence with, “He was…” (News9). Sharuk Narang, a restaurateur, tried to avoid the fatal conclusion by saying Siddhartha had “just gone somewhere…” (NewsX)

BTVI, CNN-News 18 and others debated the role of government agencies in hounding him to death. On and on it went, till late evening. Wednesday, soon after 7.30 am, came those first visuals of his washed-up body.

Everyone should ask TV news channel reporters and anchors: how would you like it if your loved ones appeared on television news in a similar state?

Also read: Gave it my all, sorry to let you down: What CCD founder wrote in purported letter to staff

Pakistan & Shiv murtis

We ought to also ask Zee News the reason for its magnificent obsession with Pakistan: every evening, or every other evening, it indulges in in-depth coverage of some aspect of our neighbour’s activities that it finds objectionable. On Sunday, it was Prime Minister Imran Khan’s clothes. According to the channel, on Khan’s recent visit to the US, he wore an array of tasteful pathan suits. The report said his wife had claimed his clothes had been tailored, at low cost. However, the Pakistani media unearthed two boutiques that had supplied the suits to him at a cost of up to Rs 16,000 per suit. OMG. Imagine the impact of this on Pakistan-US relations, worse India-Pakistan ties.

Another intriguing story that made the rounds of some channels was the magical milk trick of Shiv murtis. Aaj Tak and News Nation found that these idols were capable of sipping milk from a teaspoon, most elegantly. Honestly. Similar stories have surfaced periodically since the mid-1990s. Must be another great, ancient Indian scientific achievement the world has ignored.

Lastly, have you been watching Tiranga TV, “where truth matters”? If you have, you will know there is nothing to watch: a mosaic film seems to be covering the screen and only replays of old shows are up and running. Why don’t they just close it down instead of continuing with this charade?

Also read: How Siddhartha turned Cafe Coffee Day into a multi-billion dollar ‘success story’


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  1. It;s sad how TV channels will do anything for those TRPs. Also let us not forget how sadistic our viewers are, who enjoy such crap.

  2. I totally agree with the author about sensitiveness on reporting such news and also the photoshoots. The reports are known like vultures having seen in Kargil war or 26/11 Mumbai carnage or Bhiar encephalitis case of intruding into hospital into the privacy of patients and relatives. For them it is news, no matter what. Once Karan Thaper said when a question was asked about how senstivitity plays when is taking interview of someone in Devil’s Advocate. His answer was, if it makes a story he will keep the sensitivity aside and that is why he asked Amitabh with Jaya Bacchan by his side about Rekha and Parveen Babi affair and when Amitab denied having such affair, Karan went on to ask Jaya Bacchan whether she believes Amitabh in this. I appreciate the author bringing such good points to ask the reporters how they would have behaved the person photographed is their kith and kin.

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