If you watch television news or listen to it, carefully, you’ll have noticed that regardless of the issue, the language employed in the coverage is very similar, often identical.
Be it the current ‘Mahayudh’ (CNN News18) or ‘Mahabharata’ (NDTV India) in Maharashtra with the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government ‘tottering’ (Times Now), be it last year’s farmers’ protests, the storm over hijab, stone pelting incidents in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri and other cities, the agitation against suspended BJP member Nupur Sharma’s derogatory remarks against the Prophet, or this week’s violent outrage against the Narendra Modi government’s Agnipath army recruitment scheme, news channels tend to describe them alike.
So here are a few of their favourite words — and stock phrases — which they roll out on almost every occasion.
TV News’ modus operandi
It will begin innocuously with something like, `Anger over Agniveer’ (India Today), The next question is likely to be, `Who is inciting coordinated protests?’ (India TV), a phrase repeatedly used for the Kanpur arson last week against Nupur Sharma, the Jahangirpuri violence and the Agnipath agitation.
The answers to these questions are also the same: there is always a ‘mastermind’ (Muslim clerics for instance in the Kanpur case) `inciting’ the protests through ‘WhatsApp group chat’ to provoke a `hate attack’ (Times Now). When TV9 Bharatvarsh reported, ‘Yogi says some people inciting protests’, he could have been referring to any of the events mentioned above although his remark was made in connection with the Agnipath protests.
Along with the masterminds, TV news sleuths invariably discover another villain of the piece. The public cannot be protesting on its own, so there has to be a hidden hand: Pakistan (cited by Zee News in the Sharma case), or the Popular Front of India (blamed in the hijab row and the violence in Kanpur) and coaching centres in the outcry over Agnipath (India TV).
Not far behind these mischief makers are you-know-who. When Republic TV asks, ‘Who is politicising Agnipath?’, it’s a rhetorical question: opposition parties are. The favourite is the Congress, which ‘fanned the flames’ or ‘fuelled the fire’ — stock TV phrases — with its Bharat Bandh Monday that according to the news channels ‘flops’ — a word used often to describe the party’s failures.
The other frequent villain is Asaddudin Owaisi (Hyderabad MP and chief of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen), who speaks out on every issue concerning Muslims and is treated by news channels as the unofficial spokesperson for the community, one who ‘incites’ them.
When an opposition party, in power, totters like the Shiv Sena-led MVA, more often than not there is a ‘quake’ (CNN News18), ‘maha quake’ (NDTV India) and a ‘game of thrones’ (CNN News18). And when the BJP is thought to be behind these seismic political events, it’s not called ‘politicising’ as it would be for the opposition — no, it’s a ‘surgical strike’ (India Today) called ‘Operation Lotus’ (NDTV India). In November 2019 when the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena’s MVA government was formed, news channels used very similar descriptions.
Also read: ‘Action begins’, ‘bulldozers roll’ – TV news treated razing of a family home like a film shoot
Everything’s a conspiracy
It stands to reason that the masterminds and the politicians are involved in ‘saazish’. This is the all-time favourite word on Hindi news channels. Everything is a `saazish’ — and the ultimate aim of these plots is to destabilise India. Times Now alleged that Pakistan was behind the outrage expressed by Muslim countries in the Nupur Sharma case.
Plots naturally involve ‘conspiracies’—conspiracies to disturb the peace, to ‘derail reforms’ like Agnipath (Times Now), conspiracies hatched by the ‘hate Modi gang’ (Times Now) — another popular term. These ‘gangs’ operate out of places like Delhi’s Khan Market while `tukde-tukde’ gangs exist in every city where disturbances occur.
Just as there is no smoke without a fire, there’s no ‘conspiracy’ or ‘saazish’ without a toolkit—‘Is there a toolkit against Agnipath?’ asked Times Now Navbharat. The same terms were used during the farmers’ protests in 2021 and countless other occasions.
TV news channels mostly describe such people as ‘anti nationals’ — this applies to those who oppose the Modi government or resort to any kind of protest. For them, news channels have an answer: “Those who conspire will pay the price” (Times Now Navbharat).
Many of these terms or words often come together. So there was a ‘saazish’ using a social media ‘toolkit’ by ‘rioters and conspirators’ (Times Now) in the Kanpur violence — `anti-nationals’, Republic TV called them, and part of the ‘hate Modi campaign’.
‘Hate’ makes frequent appearances too. ‘Who is emboldening hate?’ asked CNN News18 in the Kanpur case; ‘Punish hate?’ inquired Times Now.
The latest addition to the word play on TV news is, of course, ‘bulldozer’: there is ‘bulldozer politics’, ‘bulldozer justice’ or ‘kanoon ka bulldozer’ as News18 India called it and ‘bulldozer baba’, besides the real bulldozers that demolish buildings.
Oh, nearly forgot the much loved ‘v/s’. Most TV debates deliberately pit panelists with diametrically opposing views for a gladiatorial battle in which `v/s’ figures in each bout.
We could cite more stock television news words and phrases but you get the general idea of the current TV lingo.
Let the last word go to Republic TV, which claims to represent the country: ‘India stands’ with those it believes are true patriots, it proclaims and `rejects’ all others: `India rejects Bharat Bandh’, it stated Monday.
Also read: TV news has changed in the last 8 years. `Blamegates’ to mahants—it’s the Modi effect
Snippets of PM
On a different note, here’s an interesting tidbit from television news: there were two made-for-television video ops with the Prime Minister. The first was when he visited his mother on her centenary birthday (Saturday); the other when he strolled down the new tunnel near Pragati Maidan in Delhi, Sunday.
We were treated to snippets of the PM washing his mother’s feet, doing puja or eating with her, repeatedly. And then, we saw footage of him in the tunnel corridor, casually picking up some junk and a plastic bottle. Cynics have claimed that both occasions were tailored for publicity but however cynical you are, you have to concede that this is good messaging: love and respect your mother; don’t litter public places, especially with plastic.
Views are personal.
(Edited by Prashant)