Thursday, June 13, 2013

Breaking News

Unlike many senior citizens who sit glued to the TV set whenever they have spare time (which they have in plenty), I hardly watch television these days. My television viewing is restricted to watching  the news channels, which seem to be “Breaking (the) News” with the same news  from morning till evening, with every channel claiming  that they are the first to telecast that  particular news. When you get fed up of watching the same news repeatedly  on one channel and try to surf the other news channels-  you find the same breaking news being featured in those  channels too!

The latest obsession of the Channels with  the IPL match fixing scandal during  the last few weeks has made even the hardcore TV viewers sick. Even the brutal killing of Congress leaders by Maoists in an ambush in Chhattisgarh became secondary news in almost all the channels.

Nowadays most of the advertising clips are also the same at any point of time.  I am told that some whiz kids in the Ad Media world came up with the idea of broadcasting the same television commercials  in all the selected channels at the same time, so that even if the viewers skip a channel during ad breaks to go to another news channel, they will find the same commercials running. The ad guys surely know how to get the ‘eyeballs’ of their target audience!

Then there are the mandatory debates on every Breaking News topic. It is most irritating to see the anchor become the chief judge, conducting a trial by media, cross questioning a bunch of experts that the Channel is  able to assemble at short notice. Technology has made it easy for the channels to take their cameras into the homes of the experts and get their views on the topic. I often wonder how the same experts appear live on different channels at the same time. I have realized that participating in any debate on a news channel requires special skills – to say what you want to say ignoring the constant interjections  by both the anchor and the fellow panelists!

Some of the anchors are so obnoxious – they shout at the top of their voices, bulldozing their pre-conceived views  on the panelists,  aggressively  forcing them to agree to their own point of view.

I derive enormous pleasure when I find an articulate and intelligent panelist give it back to the anchor in the same coin. Some even threaten to walk out of a discussion if the anchor does not allow them to express their views. Like what the current Chief Minister of Tamilnadu did in a  `Devil`s Advocate` programme on CNN IBN some years ago. Fed up with the provocative attitude of the anchor when she got up to leave midway, the `Devil` (Karan Thapar) tried to tell her “It was a pleasure having you in the programme” she snubbed him. “ It was no pleasure talking to you” and walked out. Another person who is notorious for snubbing the anchors is that `enfant terrible` Lawyer cum Politician Jethmalani.

The more sober panelists wait patiently for their turn, constantly adjusting the hearing plug and when their turn comes, politely  tell  the anchor “for making me wait patiently for 15 minutes, please give me 60 seconds of uninterrupted time”. Sometimes, the debates end up becoming shouting matches between panelists,  especially when politicians from opposing parties are involved.

I understand that for many of the panelists, appearing on the panel discussion is an additional source of income. The channels do pay them some fee for sparing their valuable time to make their profound statements on the topics under discussion. Some have even achieved the status of ‘debate celebrities` because of their frequent exposure on different channels every other day.

While I hate the TV debates, I still watch them ensnared by the eloquence of some of the panelists. I really admire their abilities to think on their feet or shall we say think on their seats!

Watching the news channels,  I also wonder if there is nothing good happening in this country. Almost 100% of the news only covers negative aspects of our lives – rapes, murders, scams big and small, suicides, accidents, etc. Why can’t these channels devote some percentage of the news time every day to highlight achievements of people or about the good things that are happening around the country? It is not enough if they have special programmes on such topics, but must have a couple of news items showcasing good, positive and inspiring ideas, every day, every show! I don`t think the channels which are only obsessed with `TRP` ratings that the sensational  ` Breaking News` provides them, will ever do it.

So, like millions of people in this country I still prefer my morning newspaper for a comprehensive coverage of National, State and local news. Television can never give me the kind of joy I derive reading a newspaper in the morning, sitting on my easy chair, sipping my favorite `strong filter Kapi`.

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