The good, the bad and the ugly. That title of a Hollywood film pretty much sums up Indian television news this week just as it has done on many previous occasions.
The good: A fine promotional video of the renovated and renamed ‘Kartavya Path’ on all channels — never did Delhi’s Raisina Hills look lovelier. Watch out for this evening’s inauguration — should be quite a spectacle.
Also good: Fulsome coverage of the bad news from what NewsX called ‘Blurundated’ after ‘Monsoon Fury’ flooded Bengaluru (Times Now). Somewhat bemusing that channels were chiefly concerned that the Information Technology industry of the city was underwater — ‘IT City Crumbles’ (CNN–News18) – rather than your average middle-class citizen. We’ll return to this in a bit.
The bad: Oh, so many examples, but let’s start off with the virtually non-existent coverage of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India Tuesday and the two countries signing a river pact after 25 years. Is this what good neighbours do?
The ugly: Some coverage of the tragic road accident that killed industrialist Cyrus Mistry on Sunday. It began on a sober note with stills and videos of the damaged car at the accident site. Speculation on the cause of the crash was minimal as channels focussed more on Mistry’s life and career.
The ugliness crept into Monday’s ‘special’ reports: An eyewitness on India TV claimed that the car was speeding at 120-140 km, suggesting reckless driving — but how would he know?
He then said, rather chillingly, “Jaan nahi tha (there was no life left)” in the passengers at the back who were not wearing seat belts. Times Now chose to be macabre: The accident led to the ‘smashing’ of their heads and shoulders, it claimed.
India Today’s coverage was by far the worst: In the morning, its reporter said that it was a ‘mystery’ why the airbags for the rear seats didn’t open. Perhaps he ought to watch his own channel where an auto expert explained that airbags are activated only when seat belts are worn.
Like other channels, India Today too showed the bodies being carried out of the car, but then it went a step further by showing stills of the two people who had been in the front seats — Dr Anahita Pandole flung to the ground, and her husband Darius Pandole.
Equally ugly, although well-meaning, were the simulated visuals of what happens to people at the back with no seat belts on: You see this CGI skeletal figure thrown forward and then flung back — wham. Very scary. Which is the purpose, of course, but surely the video can be a little less frightening? Children will have nightmares after watching it.
Back to something news channels covered well: Bengaluru’s ‘Torrential Rainfall’ (Mirror Now). There was non-stop coverage of the incessant rains — “A very good story for TV channels every year”, one individual commented, acerbically (India Today). The words used to describe the impact of the rains tell you the story: ‘Broken Bengaluru Sinking’ (India Today), ‘Urban India Nightmare (Mirror Now), ‘Sinking Reality of Smart City’ (Times Now) …
The public interviewed on phone calls at India Today and Times Now wearily reminded us that the ‘Monsoon Mayhem’ (India Ahead) occurs each year and demanded answers from the government. Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai promptly replied by blaming the rain (what else?) and previous Congress governments.
To indicate the depth of the flooding, reporters stood in knee-deep water to get a real-time experience of ‘water water’ on the roads. Visuals showed us temples, schools, ‘Even the Vidhan Sabha’ (Times Now) waterlogged — and the ‘posh’ villas as the ‘Wealthy Clamber Onto Boats’, ‘Techies on Tractors’ to reach dry land (India Today).
Channels repeatedly showed us the alarming condition of the badly flooded IT industry area. If this is the plight of the ‘Back Office of the World,’ what about slum dwellers, wondered India Today. Can’t say, any channel showed the slums, though….
TV can’t get over BJP-AAP
There is too much continuing coverage of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Aam Aadmi Party battle over the alleged scam in Delhi’s excise policy.
This is not just bad, but boring television too.
The BJP ‘sting’ video of a man — who it claimed is the father of a liquor vendor named by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and who allegedly admitted there were kickbacks to the AAP (phew!) — was so blurry that it provided no clear proof of anything. Nevertheless, news channels telecast it for most of Monday, especially Republic TV.
Tuesday’s live footage of the BJP protests in Delhi over the ‘scam’ was pretty pointless — there are protests across India every day, so what’s so special about this one? Perhaps it’s because the protests occurred in Delhi and therefore needed preferential treatment? We all know of Doordarshan, but why must we have a daily Delhi-darshan?
The other two topics that excited news channels were Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s meeting with the opposition party leaders in Delhi and the Congress’ ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ flagged off on Wednesday. Times Now put it rather well: ‘Rahul Leads Bharat Jodo, Nitish Vipaksh Jodo’.
The latter saw much fanfare and flag-hoisting as Rahul Gandhi and his band of leaders set off on their journey through 12 states. TV news channels, cheekily, asked if the yatra was to unite the country or his ‘splintering’ party (India Today).
Views are personal.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)