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Pawar to Modi-Shah, easy to tell which TV channel Indian politicians will give interviews to

Times Now, NDTV, India Today - Indian channels with usually different coverage of the same news finally found a common ground last week: rape

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When Times Now reported on Congress leader P. Chidambaram’s release from jail in the INX Media case, Wednesday, it wrote, “Ex-FM Chidambaram granted bail/SC allows him to walk free”. It added that he must “surrender his passport” and gave details of the Supreme Court’s conditions for his bail.

NDTV 24×7 reporting the same news development said, “Bail for Chidambaram/SC Quashes Delhi HC order/SC criticizes Delhi HC/ Cong: Truth has prevailed”.

Notice the shift in emphasis: Times Now adds the conditional nature of the bail, NDTV focuses on the Supreme Court’s strictures.

These examples simply point to different news channels making starkly different choices about the news they cover and how they cover it – they seldom agree, frequently differ.

Here is another example: on Tuesday, Times Now ran a ‘super exclusive’ #PriyankaFakeBreach’, claiming it had tracked down the ‘intruders’ who had reportedly entered Priyanka Gandhi’s premises and met her. Congress alleged it was a massive security breach. Video footage on Times Now showed an SUV – allegedly the offending vehicle in question — and interviewed Sharda Tyagi, who claimed to be a longstanding Congress worker.

A little later, NewsX also referred to the fake ‘security breach’.

India Today picked up the story and ran with it: “Outrage backfires”, it said of the Congress commotion in Parliament over the issue. It showed the same SUV – “visuals accessed” – but did not identify the source. Thereafter, the story ran with banner headlines on Republic Bharat and Republic TV – “Priyanka claim backfires” and became the subject of heated debates on Times Now and Republic TV –‘#CongressBreachesCongress’.

NDTV 24×7, meanwhile, carried on with its coverage of the protests against the horrific Hyderabad rape and murder case. It also highlighted a CAG report that said the Railways operating ratio was 98.44 per cent – the worst in 10 years. It highlighted a tweet criticising the Narendra Modi government on the Railways’ performance by none other than Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. In the evening, it went with a Sharad Pawar exclusive interview and a discussion on “Muslims divided” over Ayodhya.

Also read: TOI and ET hide Rahul Bajaj’s comments that industry afraid to criticise Modi govt

On the ‘climate of fear’

Another piquant situation occurred when Rahul Bajaj, chairman Bajaj Group, made certain remarks on the reluctance of industrialists to criticise the Modi government (for fear of reprisals). He also observed that action against BJP MP Pragya Thakur for her remarks on M.K. Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse and in cases of lynching were inadequate.

While the video of these comments made at The Economic Times’ ET Awards 2019 Saturday made the rounds of many news channels, Times Now (also from the Bennett Coleman group) did its best to ignore them – and when it did address them in a debate, it framed it thus: “BJP v/s Fear Lobby” – or ‘Lutyens’ lobby’, which Times Now and Republic TV have a particular anathema to.

On India Today, the debate dwelt on the same topic: the ‘climate of fear’. Rajdeep Sardesai asked why it took a Rahul Bajaj to “break the silence of the lambs?”

Politicians have equally sharp likes and dislikes in TV news channels, depending on their opinion of the channels’ biases. When Sharad Pawar gave his first interview after a month of ‘Maha mayhem’, he chose ABP Majha.

His next TV interview, in English, went to NDTV 24×7 Tuesday.

When Home Minister Amit Shah gives an interview, you can be very sure he won’t choose NDTV. It will be Times Now, Zee News or Republic TV – he was at the latter’s summit last week, where Arnab Goswami interviewed him.

Similarly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given interviews to all major news channels barring NDTV since 2013.

The Congress has long since stopped sending its members for debates at Times Now and Republic TV. After its setback in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, it had boycotted all TV news debates for several months.

Also read: Rape is now ‘daily news’ and Rahul Bajaj is ‘not scared’ of Modi-Shah

Finally, a common ground

But there are some issues TV news agrees upon: rape is one of them. Across channels, the public protests found an echo in the TV studios: if CNN News 18 said #RageAgainstRape, India Today went with `#Hyderabad Horrors’; NDTV 24×7 demanded `JusticeForDisha’, Republic TV wanted ‘Death for Rapists’; when India Today said that this is `No Country for Women’, Times Now replied `India draws the line’.

And in one voice they agreed that Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan’s suggestion that the rapists be lynched was no solution – “no vigilantes please”, requested NewsX.

While NewsX called the accused in the Hyderabad rape and murder case “6 beasts”, News 9 saw them as “monsters” who had “force fed the victim alcohol…”

“What they have done in the name of God is a heinous crime,” declared Anand Narasimhan on CNN News18.

Gargi Rawat, NDTV 24×7, said nothing had changed since Nirbhaya, Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami said ‘enough is enough’, the NewsX anchor wanted rapists ‘hung in a week’ after conviction; at Times Now, Rahul Shivshankar wanted all MPs to resign in protest.

If Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi spoke on Aaj Tak (among other channels), India Today interviewed Disha’s father and sister.

News channels, both Hindi and English, also drew blood on the issue of the Nirbhaya fund created to help protect and secure women. Channel after channel, from Times Now to India TV, reported in detail the funds allocated to each state and how they had spent next to nothing of it: Maharashtra had spent ‘0’, Rahul Shivshankar revealed on Times Now; 11 states had not even touched the fund, added Aaj Tak. “The states are sleeping,” declared its anchor.

Which is more than what Satish does. In a strange story on Aaj Tak Monday, this shop owner told the channel that he hasn’t slept a wink in 19 years.

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  1. Now, the vintage Shailaja Bajpai is shining like only she can. Such a spotlight, on issues which might have escaped the attention of ordinary followers of TV channels, is both informative and entertaining. More power to your (proverbial) pen and your insight. Warm regards.

  2. Its over one and half year I stopped watching news in television…. It is really a peace of mind. It is infact very difficult to digest the news cooked by these media houses for highly educated citizens which actually creates lot of psychological pressure… But these channels can readily able to manipulate average educated and semi literate lot who can write in twitter and Facebook but social conscience and understanding.

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