April 24, 2007

NEWS - No Essential Watchable Substance

April 24, 2007 Posted by Vijay 4 comments
One of the major factors which has brought about a sense of realisation and awakening in the new age India has undoubtedly been the media. Today, along with the hefty pay packets that a well to do Indian gets, their spending habits have also grown manifold. The sensex boom can partly be attributed to the risk appetite of the young Indian. Daring and Raring probably fits as the right phrase. Willing to invest heavily in stocks, keep track of the markets. The fluctuation, the trends, and every single move of the Government too. A decision or an announcement by the Finance Minister can have so much impact on the decision of these young investors. A budget session carries so much of importance and gains attention never known to India before.

All these, have had to do a lot with how the media has covered these events. Today there are innumerable news channels. Most of them Indian channels. Regional and National. This influx has given a heavy dose of information. It can almost be confusing just like how the UP exit polls by NDTV and Times NOW seemed poles apart. On the one hand, it is refreshing to see the common Indian citizen seek information, and learn the Government's moves, and thus more often than not conclude whether central Government decisions are fair/just/practical. On the other, skewed news items, with various interpretations can lead to the wrong information getting percolated.

Take for example the Face The Nation programme telecast on CNN-IBN yesterday by Rajdeep Sardesai. The topic for the nation was so communally flagrant, I fear for the life of Mr Sardesai now. The topic was - "Is Islam Incompatible With Democracy". That is no way to put across a topic for discussion leave alone have it aired to millions of viewers. There can be nothing worse than stoke up communal sentiments through the media itself. As a viewer who sent an sms to this poll yesterday rightly pointed out, democracy shouldn't be assessed by the religion it thrives on. It was honestly disgusting to see such a topic in a supposedly responsible television media channel.

These days Indian News Channels are almost like a live cricket match. There are more five ball overs than the 6 ball overs. More of ads less of news. As an exercise, the results of which I almost knew by way of gut feel, I timed the advertisements being aired on our famed NDTV, CNN-IBN and Times NOW channels, between the news bulletins. It was almost similar for each of them, with an average of 210 seconds (3.5 minutes) in a 30 minute new bulletin. Inevitably there would be 3 pieces to the news bulletin, interspersed by 3 of these 3.5 minute advertisement breaks. So, essentially, we are watching not even 20 minutes of worthwhile news for every 30 minutes of valuable information. That Abhishek and Aiswarya wedding takes precedence, not to mention the Indian Cricket team's sagging fortunes will hog the limelight half of the time is a totally different point.

Being unfair to our Indian News channels without comparing them with the Western Counterparts is a valid point. So, I went about timing the advertisements between news bulletins for CNN and BBC. Not surprisingly, yet again, they air more of information and less of ads in a 30 minute news bulletin. In numbers, on an average, they are far better off than our Indian counterparts. Airing ads for only 2 minutes at an average thrice in a 30 minute bulletins. Now, I can fairly and squarely opine on our dear Indian News Channels. This exercise CAN be done at home. You just need a timer and the channels of course !

Taking a step further, I observed that while in the 2 minutes of ads that CNN and BBC air, 70% of them are about the programmes that they would be airing through the course of the day. It hardly surprised me that NDTV and CNN-IBN were doing just the opposite. 70% of advertisements ranging from VIP briefs to the Hutch ticker one. Raking in the moolah during an Indian Economic boom is quite understandable. But responsible journalism is not something any of our Indian channels can boast of.

Just like in a live cricket match, any breaking news will have so many advertisements, that there is less of news and more of VIP underwears. While the media cribs about being beaten up by security guards, it has the apology tendered by Amitabh Bacchan as headlines. Amitabh thus retained his image. Now, waiting in the long queues by common devotees at Tirupathi for 3 hours under a scorching sun doesn't deserve enough weightage compared to the Bacchans' visit after the Abhiash wedding. It is more important to air the pictures of the wedding than the views of the common devotee. Isn't that hyped journalism than responsible journalism ? Mind you, this after airing underwears inbetween the same Wedding Pics all through the day !

Similar is the latest Shilpa Shetty kissing controversy. The media is alright with smooching scenes in Indian Movies, but if a gora kisses our desi kudi, all of the supposed Bharat Sanskriti followers go up in arms. True, any public figure needs to act responsibly. But in this case, there was nothing irresponsible whatsoever. Why was Arun Nayar and Elizabeth Hurley's wedding given so much fanfare ? Because the groom was of Indian Origin and the Bride a failed Hollywood Actress. If their lips are pursed together in wedlock there is no problem. But if our desi kudi is kissed it is indeed an insult to the Indian Woman. I would have wanted to see the reaction if an Akshay Kumar kissed her, and not Richard Gere. Of what consequence is it if Shilpa Shetty is kissed or f***ed ? Or is the media having fun airing intolerant views of some hypocrites across the nation ?

Indian Media is just an exploiter of Indian sentiments. Indian psyche has always been an emotional and sentimental one. Passionate and Expressive. The more spicy the news, better the chances of getting larger television audience. SMS polls do the rounds in all channels, with questions which inevitably stoke up sentiments and emotions, sometimes bordering the dangerous like the one on whether Islam is incompatible with democracy. I think Indian Media has been given too much of leeway. Maybe it is time for the I&B Ministry to curtail this freedom, and put a clamp on it, until it behaves responsibly.


Venkat said...

Well said, and is a much needed one at this time.

I would be happy, if they talk less of cricket atleast

KK said...

Good one....quiet truthful though sometimes we do get lucky enuf to get good NEWS amidst these ADDS!!!

Deepika said...

Very well said ... The Indian Media has certainly been annoying...

Sakshi said...

Hey...couldnt find your email add. Would be great if you would mail me..needed to chat with you about something.