Hallo and welcome: There’s some Good News Today and then there’s some bad news.
A new Hindi news channel has wafted into view, seemingly out of nowhere, grinning from ear to ear. It oozes ‘positivity’ – not the Covid variety – declares ‘no entry to negativity’ and offers us a ‘full dose of goodness’ — here, it’s ‘happy hours’ 24 hours a day where no one gives a second’s thought to sadness. This is the India Today Group’s new channel Good News Today.
GNT’s bright young, anchors are all smiles all the time – and chant ‘achcha’ like a magic mantra throughout the day—sounds as though it could be inspired by the Prime Minister’s ‘Achche din’. Certainly, its daily ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ show takes its cue from Narendra Modi’s tea time election programme before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
But before we sit down to jalebis and samosas with the five anchors, the bad news, first.
Bad week for Indian TV
It’s been a bad, bad week for TV news reporting on Afghanistan. Leading news channels such as Republic TV, Times Now, and others like Zee Hindustan have goofed up, badly.
As has been widely reported, Republic TV broadcast an ‘exclusive Hasti TV’ report on Pakistani forces, jets, apparently fighting in support of the Taliban against the National Resistance Forces in Panjshir. The video footage of ‘Pak Air Force attacks’ on Panjshir was actually taken from a military video game, Arma-3.
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) September 6, 2021
Republic TV issued a clarification that admitted as much.
Then, the UK Defence Journal caught Times Now passing off video footage of an F-15 US jet flying over Wales as evidence of a ‘full-fledged Pakistani invasion of Afghanistan’.
— UK Defence Journal (@UKDefJournal) September 6, 2021
Zee Hindustan ran visuals of what it claimed was a young girl using a machine gun against the Taliban in Panjshir, when it was actually a Baloch girl in Pakistan.
An old video of a Baloch girl operating a machine gun was aired by Zee Hindustan as a clip from Panjshir, Afghanistan. @AltNewsHindi had published a fact-check report on September 4 but the channel is yet to take down the broadcast. | @HereisKinjalhttps://t.co/hoVC04pVEt
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) September 7, 2021
These few instances have come to light because of vigilant viewers and fact-checkers; there must be many others still unaccounted for, as mentioned in last week’s ‘Tele-scope’. Worryingly, coverage of Afghanistan continues with unsourced visuals of cannons going off, troops firing (News Nation), fighter jets swooping down in attacks (Zee News) and women being maltreated (TV9 Bharatvarsh)– all vaguely attributed to ‘social media’.
And before we put on a happy face, a word about BBC World and its interview with academic Christine Fair on Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, which the anchor Philippa Thomas rudely terminated because, she said, the BBC did not have a ‘Pakistani diplomat or official’ to counter Fair’s criticism. Unfair for the channel that prides itself as the world’s most impartial and objective channel to use ‘fair play’ against Fair. BBC knew her viewpoint before inviting her – the ‘holier than thou’ attitude was totally unprofessional.
Quite gross from @BBCNews: our “impartiality” doctrine was used to basically shut down @CChristineFair when she explained #Pakistan‘s jihad policy in #Afghanistan that has brought us all to this catastrophe — an issue on which there is no “balance” or “other side”, factually. pic.twitter.com/FSzXKLMExN
— Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) September 4, 2021
Good news 24×7
Right, now let’s return to Good News Today, which commenced Monday with the aim of dispelling the gloom and doom we have lived in since the Covid pandemic overwhelmed life. It’s a jolly good idea, literally, but can ‘good news’ work as a 24×7 channel?
What’s on offer? Well, there was India’s Test cricket victory against England at the Oval, the Olympics and Paralympics triumphs in Tokyo, including a chat with javelin gold medalists Neeraj Chopra and Sumit Antil —‘the best good news of the year’.
There was talk of a vaccine coming soon for children, and children returning to the classroom — this made GNT so happy that it visited schools and the home of some students, where the anchor was lucky enough to chance upon the family at tea time. “Let’s have a pakoda party!” she exclaimed, happily.
There were visits to temples in preparation for Ganesh Chaturthi, the delightful prospect of a Kashi ‘cruise’ down the river in Varanasi, there were news snippets — ‘100 good news’ items, of course – viral social media videos, and heartening news from across India. For instance, there’s a ‘camel’ library in Rajasthan, which the animal takes to secluded havens, and a school on a boat in Katihar….
Oh and don’t miss ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ with the three women who eat, drink (tea) and make merry, laugh at each others’ jokes and introduce us to many feel-good stories—and the snacks we partake at tea time. On Monday, it was tea and biscuits, Tuesday jalebis and samosas, and Wednesday saw gulab jamuns. Yummy news.
Does a good-news diet work?
On a more serious note, there are news headlines, a ‘Fact Check’ show and actor Sonu Sood with ‘Desh ki Baat Sunata Hoon’ at 9 pm. In the first episode, Tuesday, he spoke to some ‘real’ heroes — women who had joined the armed forces.
There is also news that appeared as bad news on other channels but was transformed into good news here: The women protesting against Pakistan in Kabul, shot at by the Taliban, were applauded for their brave opposition by GNT.
All of this ‘achchi-sachchi khabrein’ and more is brought to you with a ‘Good news wali smile’.
Will GNT work? Too early to judge. What’s good is its ‘josh’ – its positive outlook, the lack of noise, the absence of booming headlines, divide and rule debates, divisive politics and staged conflicts. A relief, for sure. The anchors are relaxed, more talk show hosts than news channel anchors.
And, it is time we saw and heard some good news for a change.
— GNTTV (@GoodNewsToday) September 8, 2021
But when there is so much that is wrong around us, maybe we also need to see bad-sad news that is covered in passing. While Pakistan ‘invades’ Afghanistan (CNN News18, Republic TV) and other news from there has conquered air time, there are pressing issues confronting people, which cry out for more attention.
Examples: Bihar has a floating population, due to monsoon floods, in districts like Vaishali where ‘mausam abhi cloudy hai’ (NewsNation); the coronavirus numbers have risen once again, in Maharashtra and in Mumbai (NDTV 24×7); there are Nipah cases in Kerala (India Today) and dengue infections in Uttar Pradesh; Bengaluru sees a ‘pothole murder because of damaged roads (Mirror Now).
These stories need telling more often even if they wipe the smile off our faces.
Views are personal.