Tuesday, 9 August, 2022
HomeOpinionTele-scopeTV news is droning about drones and all aflutter over Twitter

TV news is droning about drones and all aflutter over Twitter

Experts on news channels spoke aggressively after drone attack on Jammu Air Force station, want India to ‘occupy 40 km of PoK’.

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A small blue bird and a ‘mystery flying object’ flew in and out of TV studios this week, creating quite a commotion.

First, there was Twitter — for the bird was none other — which ruffled many feathers, recently, that resulted in something of a flutter on air, but we’ll come to that later.

The ‘flying object’, which those of us who have been watching TV know only too well, referred to the drone – or drones – which flew into Jammu and Kashmir, not once, not twice but on three consecutive nights — was this a ‘serial drone attack?’ wondered Zee News.

And each time they were “spotted”, news channels were on hand to spot them too. ‘Blast in Jammu,’ announced India Today, Sunday as channels zeroed in on a ‘hole’ in the ground where the drone’s droppings had struck (India TV). ‘Major attack averted,’ sighed CNN News18, relieved it was only a hole in the ground, although two people were also injured.

‘Another drone spotted late at night,’ said Times Now, Monday morning, adding ’Army fired 25 rounds,’ but, alas, to no avail — the drones managed to flee. CNN News18 had a computer generated image (CGI) of an evil-looking drone being shot at by three soldiers. Is that how drones are downed?

Came Tuesday morning and ‘3 more drones spotted’ (Mirror Now) at different locations, but these also managed to escape. And then again on Wednesday, ‘3 drones spotted in Jammu,’ reported CNN News18. 

It seemed like something out of Star Wars, or the recent US intelligence report that didn’t discount the possibility of extra-terrestrial life — except that this was all too chillingly real.

Also read: TV news featured many ‘villains’ this week—from ‘Gupkar gang’ to UP’s ‘conversion jihadis’

Channels’ primary concern

Within minutes of the news breaking on the first sighting of drones Sunday, news channels began to look for the culprit. “Who held the remote to the drone?” asked India TV. And in the blink of an eye, they came up with answers: “This cannot happen without foreign hand,” said the India Today reporter; “This is a message from the enemy,” stated CNN News18’s anchor, darkly; ‘Pak drone attack,’ headlined Republic TV, baldly; ‘Lashkar suspected,’ offered India TV; “It is an act of war,” hollered Major General D. Katoch on News X, “Pakistan has waged war. Period.”

But no such denunciation has been forthcoming from the Narendra Modi government or the Army: “40 hours over… but (no one) saying if it came from Pakistan or was a local launch,” said the NDTV India anchor Monday evening; “Deeply worrying… Everyone believes it’s Pakistan,” added CNN News18, “but [we] need the proof.”

Even without proof, the channels had found the ‘enemy’ — and they were worried: ‘New kind of warfare?’ asked Mirror Now. ‘Alarm sounded,’ said India Today’s headline. “Pak has converted it (drone) into (a) killer machine,” was Times Now opinion. ‘First time drone war,’ added News 24 something all channels echoed — but Zee Hindustan saw things on a far grander and more sinister scale — ‘Drone world war,’ it prophesised.

Till such time, there was another more pressing concern: “How will India respond?” asked CNN News18 Sunday.

Experts on news channels seemed to be in a very aggressive mood, “Occupy 40 kilometres of PoK,” suggested Wing Commander P. Bakshi,  (News X). “Will take steps to teach them a lesson,” was Air Vice Marshal P.K. Barbora’s solution (India Today). “You will pay for this,” warned TV’s favourite warmonger, Maj Gen G.D. Bakshi, “We will enter your territory and hit you.” These battle plans were not accompanied by war cries, however, suggesting they were warnings rather than threats.

The call to arms was stirring stuff but most news anchors didn’t make straight for the LoC. Perhaps because the drones had captured their attention. CGI drones flew into studios (ABP News), hovered about while anchors described their features — they came in different sizes, big and small, they could weigh up to 100 kg (Zee News), they carried different payloads, they were used for many purposes, they could go high, they could dip low…

Channels displayed what looked like space age fans with four wings but each had its own version. At least one looked like a giant, creepy-crawly (Zee News); NDTV India’s was small and black; India Today’s was white with a red light; Aaj Tak’s was bouncing up and down in the studio — and so on and so forth. These diminished what was, otherwise, a serious assessment of the drone military menace, on many news channels.

Also read: Twitter counters the vision of India as a parivar. That’s why the govt wants to control it

Twitter bird has two options

News channels witnessed another kind of war too, this time over Twitter.

The latest provocation by the social media platform was its act of putting up, what Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami called, ‘a distorted’ map of  India — “Can you believe it?” he asked in disbelief. ‘Twitter violates India’s  sovereignty,’ complained WION. ‘Absolute insult,’ scolded India Today.

It came on the heels of Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accusing Twitter of suspending his account for an hour, its failure to appoint a grievance officer who lives in India, allowing the Twitterati to spread ‘fake’ news on its platform about a Muslim man who claimed his beard had been forcibly cut, and not complying with the government’s recent IT rules.

TV channels catalogued each misdemeanour with becoming disapproval — ‘Twitter triggers controversy’ (Times Now). “How can you make mistakes, again and again?” demanded India TV’s Ajay Kumar. It was left to ABP News anchor Rubika Liyaquat to best describe the recent disputes between governments in India and the microblogging website — maybe, she suggested, there ought to be “a ministry for Twitter?”

Then there were the cases against Twitter in UP – ‘Twitter MD booked,’ exulted Republic TV — and more were to follow in Madhya Pradesh.

The consensus across channels was that the bird needed to either clip its wings or fly out.

Lastly, in keeping with the general violent discourse, what to make of these? “Congress implodes” (India Today), Navjot Singh Sidhu is a “misguided missile,” said Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Badal (ABP News) and BJP’s Ravi Kishen told Republic TV that religious conversion “was another form of terrorism.”

Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant Dixit)

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