TV’s myopic view – T20 saga and more

Watching Indian television news now-days can be a frustrating affair and it had become more painful in the last one week since T20 betting saga broke.

It appears that nothing else is happening in India except investigation into spot-fixing in the T20 matches and betting involving top echelons of cricket. Everything else has been diminished to ticker news on the modern Indian news channels.

I received an email from a friend who illustrated with examples how the private television news in India has got myopic. Being a journalist, I would have regarded criticism of my professional colleagues with disdain but in this case I had to succumb.

The email said that by the time you guys read this news the body of Major Manish Pitambare, who was shot dead in Anantnag, Kashmir, would have been cremated. Pitambare was killed by militant when TV channels ran Sanjay Dutt story “‘Sirf Munna not a Bhai’, ‘13 saal ka vanvaas khatam’ and ‘although found guilty for possession of armory, Sanjay can breath sigh of relief as all the TADA charges against him are withdrawn’ for entire day. Pitambare almost went missing from television channels.

It was BBC, a foreign channel, which broke the story about the encounter in which Pitambare lost his life and a top Hizbul Mujahidin militant was also killed. Till late in the night, the Indian news channels had only Sanjay Dutt.

“I am sending this to you because you are the people who were broadcasting live how and from where the Indian commandoes were attacking the Taj Hotel during 26/11 with no concern on how you were jeopardising the lives of commandoes. I am very surprised at how such brainless people are even chosen as journalists. You do not care about what is news and what is gossip,” he said in his email.

On Saturday, the television channels over-awed by T20 scam had just a few minutes for major Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh, in which senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma was killed and former Union Cabinet VC Shukla was injured. The Maoists also kidnapped Pradesh Congress Chief Nand Kumar Patel and his son after attacking the Congress leaders at Darba Gati Valley in Jagdalpur district.

In the week of T20 scam broadcast on television even a brutal murder of a family of seven in Ghaziabad was brushed under the carpet, probably because the victims were not from influential class. Even wrap on the knuckles of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit by Lokayukta remained almost unreported on major television news channels. Story of young guy marrying her girlfriend, who was gang-raped in Bihar, went missing from the big-wig news channels. The list of create unwarranted media hype is unending.

One thing common string about all the journalistic stories listed above is that they would not have attracted high TRP ratings as the T20 scam did. The TRP ratings are most important for television channels, including news, as advertising rates are dependent on these ratings. And when managers override journalists it is bound to happen.

I am in agreement with most that there is a need to clean the cricket setup and inculcate transparency in the cricketing management. Then, there is corruption in almost every sphere of politics and governance. Why not, the same enthusiasm and campaign is shown against the mighty politicians? May be, their power and influence can impact balance sheets of media companies.

In the same refrain, I will like to add that not only for media but even audience needs to change. If people prefer to watch something more substantial the television channels would be forced to tow their choice. That can only bring change on how our news channels behave. Or else, bear with modern Indian news channels.

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