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Guest Column Newsmanic: The high philosophy of news channels

Guest Column Newsmanic: The high philosophy of news channels

Author | BV Rao | Friday, Aug 07,2009 7:37 AM

Guest Column Newsmanic: The high philosophy of news channels

The average TV journalist hates his job or, more precisely, hates what he has to do to keep his job, which is roughly true of any average person in any average job. The dirty, mindless content he dishes out with such passion is not HIM. Much like any average person in any average job, the TV journo, too, has made his peace. He gets by the tough life of the TV newsroom by throwing the protective ring of philosophy around himself.

Thus, the television newsroom is a very philosophical place. It is littered with life’s eternal truths. Like for example, this great philosophy of an output head in one Hindi channel: ‘Hum jitna girenge, TRPs utna uthengi!’ The steeper we fall, the higher will the TRPs rise. This relates more or less to the philosophy behind the saying, “greatness lies not in not falling, but rising higher each time we fall”. But it actuality means that the greater the debasement of news, the higher the TRPs!

At Star News, where I was Input Head for a good two years, the philosophy that kept us going was this: We wake up everyday. The maid, the gardener, the cook, the dhobi, the guard and the driver, they all work for us (and we pay them). Suited-booted we go to our fancy office, set up our laptops and start working. For all of them! Though we could never be sure till the following Friday if it was paying us, we stuck to the job because it roughly corresponds to the philosophy of “you pay for your sins in this lifetime itself”! So, there we were paying back our dues on the same day, every day!

At a more personal level now. I live in Gurgaon, so used to do breakfast, drive across three states, sit in my room waiting for lunch time, do lunch and wait another few hours to return home to do dinner! No work. Not a scrap of it. I would drive 40 km one way and 40 km the other, just to do lunch at office, because for the channel the stringer in Bulandshehar, who always landed up in a sundry bedroom just when a sundry wife was about to beat up a sundry husband for dating a sundry woman, was always more important than the sundry editor at office, who had sundry ideas on sundry other problems of life.

Here again, it was the philosophy that kept me going: Nobody is indispensible at work and nothing is impossible in life. Stringers can become editors, editors can become (lunch-eating) furniture. If the poor stringer got paid Rs 1,000 for feeding the channel for three hours and I got a fat salary for eating lunch, serves him right. Who said life was fair? Life, in fact, is a great leveler! Only one thing used to bother me, though: I should have had lunch also at home. The cheque could have come by courier! But then again, nothing comes easy in life. If you’ve got to do 80 km for lunch, you’ve got to do that.

And then there are those who started out as hardboiled journalists. Wanted to change the world etc., but were forced to attend to more pressing matters such as Professor Pyarelal ki prem kahani (the Patna Prof, who lost his heart to a student), IPS officer bana Radha (an IPS officer, who believed he was Lord Krishna’s consort Radha), Ghaas khata aadmi (a man who ate grass), or the riveting story of a naag and naagin of previous birth, separated by fate but reunited in this birth as man and wife! Their agenda may have been hijacked, the goalposts shifted, but they hung in. Reluctantly to begin with, but have now become the high priests of trash, because you got to do what you got to do. Ganda hain par dhanda hain!

Once you’ve fortified yourself with the ‘paapi peth ka sawal hain ’ philosophy, then everything is easy game. Darao, darao. (Scare them, scare them). This philosophy comes in handy when calamitous things are about to happen, such as three eclipses in the space of a month. So, it was that one channel brought in an astrologer for a show designed to scare the wits out of everybody. This astrologer was no philosopher. He said there was no danger, eclipses are very normal, no danger. Cut. Ad break. Astrologer replaced. Philosophy: if you can’t see the wolf, it doesn’t mean it won’t eat up the sheep!

But you don’t get three dangerous eclipses in a month every day. So, what do we have for today? Nothing. Nothing? Kuch nahi hain toh Rakhi hain na? If we don’t have anything, we have Rakhi (Sawant) don’t we? As long as Rakhi is willing to get kissed and get hooked on air, where’s the problem? Why do you need anything else? And if at all you need something else, why is Raju Srivastav recording, re-recording and re-re-recording all his jokes in different backgrounds every day? Jiska koi nahi uska khuda hain yaaron. Rakhi is a TV goddess, ask NDTV Imagine.

What? No Rakhi, no Raju…? Toh phir byte hain? That byte can be anything from a small time priest in a Madhya Pradesh temple saying he is about to die at 4 pm that day to the doctor saying the PM has a prostrate gland problem to Amitabh Bachchan saying just “hain” or Rakhi (oh, that saviour again) saying “aplogise aplogise” (sic ) to Mika. Those 10 seconds are treated as audio-visual gold because the newsroom knows to “make do with all it has”. All the relevant, non-relevant, irrelevant backgrounder is dug out and spread around that single byte for a three-hour feast for the viewer. That is the Ethiopian-finds-a-pea philosophy, higher than the “be content” philosophy, because this guy threw a party for the neighbourhood because he found a pea! Cruel, but again, who said life is easy?

I can go on and on with such examples, but suffice it to say that where such high philosophy rules every twist and turn, how can things be bad? How can channels be accused of debasing news? Must be that “eye of the beholder” thing. Dirty minds always see dirty things. Give them pure kitsch, they will see only the kitsch and forget it’s pure. Dekhne wale ki dil mein khot hain, huzoor.

Get it? It finally comes back to you, the viewer. You are the one who’s debauched.

(Venkat, as the author is called, insists the argument is his own and that no one else, such as exchange4media, should be hauled up for blasphemy.)

Tags: e4m

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