Last week, television news channels had so much time on their hands that they devoted themselves to everything from the assembly election results in five states to the ‘debacle’ of the Congress in each one of them; from the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab to Yogi Adityanath’s star turn in Uttar Pradesh. From the rise of coronavirus cases in China to the vaccination of children between the ages 12 and 14 — not to mention the Karnataka High Court’s verdict in the hijab row, the controversy surrounding The Kashmir Files, and missiles flying about in Kyiv. So how come they found little or no time for the ‘misfired’ Indian missile that found its way to Pakistan?
Surely, that deserved more coverage than ‘Puteen’ in fetching sunglasses, displaying a bodybuilder’s chest with “Ukraine” inscribed on it, as a Zee News segment showed? The accidental launch of a BrahMos cruise missile that landed in Pakistani territory could have sparked retaliatory fire from across the western front and before we knew it, we may have been in the middle of a little ‘mahayudh’ of our own, rather than watching ‘non-stop’ ‘exclusive’ coverage of the ‘World at War’ in Ukraine as seen on Republic TV.
Last week, news channels preferred missiles in Ukraine to the errant Indian missile in Pakistan. They dutifully reported the Narendra Modi government’s statement on the accidental firing and Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s comments in Parliament on Tuesday and then raced back to ‘the very latest videos’, according to NewsX, of the conflict in Ukraine.
How is it that Republic TV found time to discuss the woe betide Pakistan prime minister, asking: ‘Is Imran being booted out?’ but didn’t seem to have much inclination to debate the Indian missile in Pakistan?
We are accustomed to watching an incredible amount of Pakistan-bashing on Indian television news channels. Here was one occasion when they could have been more charitable, and even lauded the Pakistan government’s restrained response to the BrahMos arrival that helped avert a mini-missile crisis. No such luck.
Think of it this way: What would have happened if a missile from Pakistan had been inadvertently fired into India? Wouldn’t the news channels be howling war cries and accusing Pakistan of attacking India? Can’t you just hear Maj. Gen. GD Bakshi? Why, they may even have summoned home the likes of India Today’s intrepid Gaurav Sawant from ‘Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine’ to cover what would have been an ‘invasion’ of India’s air space.
It seems incredible that such a serious issue, one concerning the security of the subcontinent, received such little coverage.
Also Read: Why is Indian TV news focused on Ukraine 24X7? Even BBC & CNN take a break
News channels love a good war
Ukraine has become a happy hunting ground for Indian news channels. For approximately three weeks now, channels in Hindi and English have remained fixated with the Russian advance into the country. And what’s more, they feel they need to boast about it: ‘The only channel to be at ground zero’ and ‘in the war zone’. Channels like Republic TV, India Today or TV9 Bharatvarsh are wont to say. “From Poland to Romania, the latest developments from every border, every city — live and exclusive footage only on News18 India,’ read its claim.
‘Non-stop war coverage,’ Zee News chimed in, not wanting to be left out. And for once, the claims were not an exaggeration: The Ukraine-Russia war has been pretty ‘non-stop’ in the TV news studios. The cities change — Republic TV’s Shawan Sen was ‘live’ in Rivne, instead of Kyiv on Wednesday, but it’s the same old story: Buildings being flattened, rubble piling up like giant rubbish dumps, and people still trying to go about the business of living a normal existence. The alternative are scenes from out of a nightmare. We see cannons going off, aircraft dropping bombs and smoke rising in plumes, just as we did three weeks ago.
The title of a 1969 film comes to mind: Oh! What A Lovely War. That just about sums up the news channels’ obsession with Ukraine. They ‘love’ the war.
And they seem to have realised that everyone loves a good war too— hence, their passionate involvement and correspondents on ‘ground zero’. Clearly, viewers are lapping up coverage of Ukraine along with their cuppa tea, morning and evening.
Imagine what will happen when and if Russian troops enter Kyiv, the capital, where Indian TV correspondents are stationed. According to Republic TV, they’re just five kilometres away.
Also Read: TV debated the hijab row but it’s the protest videos that took the story forward
Attack on The Kashmir Files ‘agendajeevis’
Elsewhere, several news channels are doing what they can to promote Vivek Agnihotri’s film The Kashmir Files. Can’t remember when this last happened. It’s unusual to see channels say things like: ‘Kashmir sacchi Files’, ‘this is the story of each Pandit family that had to leave’. Times Now and its sister channel Times Now Navbharat have discussed the film, interviewed actor Anupam Kher, who stars in the film, and criticised those who have criticised the film — ‘agendajeevis suppressing the truth’ about Kashmir, said Times Now.
Channels like CNN News18 and NewsX have also hailed the film, the latter, for the ‘truth’ it speaks of the ‘genocide that killed thousands’. It helped, of course, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the film on Tuesday and used it to attack what the news channels thereafter called the ‘ecosystem’.
Views are personal.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)