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Guest Column: Is desperation hitting a new low on Indian news channels?

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Guest Column: Is desperation hitting  a new low on Indian news channels?

We all over the last few years have been seeing the declining standards of a genre called news.  The pick of the stories, the correctness of reporting, the treatment of stories, and the editorializing of the stories have resulted in the news anchor appearing to become bigger than the channel. 

Since there are about 30 news channels doing the same story, the top four or five have created these icons who battle it out  for supremacy in the week. I recently saw one commercial which said “ Karan Thapar beats Arnab Goswami”.  It  ran on the winning channel with alarming frequency till the time that the losing channel reacted with making numbers talk differently. 

What a world are we coming to?  The intention appears to be  not really engaging or enlightening but to irritate and repel viewers from the genre of news. It is precisely this reason that the youth of today has moved away from print and television and are glued on to their mobile handsets. It gives them the independence of deciding what to watch and how.

A veteran journalist called Dr Ved Pratap Vaidik had visited Pakistan with many others for a one-day function in Islamabad some time last month. I am told that after the day’s engagement was over, Dr Vaidik stayed back as he had other meetings to finish. One such meeting was with Hafiz Sayeed, the man India considers its enemy. The long interview commenced and finished  a month ago, and the dust settled. Till a few days ago, one of the news channels got wind of the meeting and started twisting it around. Soon, the entire footage was out and every news channel worth its salt had access to it to broadcast it to get glory in the process.

The official news channel stance was that the meeting is condemnable as it was not in public interest .  However, the star anchors had a field day with the story. New angles were being created and others were invited to the studio to air their views and fight with others on the panel.

In spite of every news anchor claiming the irrelevance of  the story,  they still refuse to part with it. The Government made its stance very clear and stated they had nothing to do with it. There were delegates of all parties in the troupe and hence what anyone does after the official engagement is over is his or her business. Fair enough. This is not the first time that a journalist had met a wanted man.  There have been instances of Osama Bin Laden, Prabhakaran, or the famed dacoits and our own Phoolan Devi who later became an MP, of having met journalists and gave their story in absolute secrecy. 

The Missed Point
This is big deal for journalist for having been able to meet the guy many Indian journalists have tried and failed.  We all saw that when the Tehelka owner who was very popular amongst the tribe, was left in the lurch all alone. To top it all each journalist tried everything to raze him down and strip him of all achievements in the past. When he got bail, not one TV channel reported it or did an analytical story.

I was watching a news channel yesterday, and one of the journalists told the anchor that Dr Vaidik does not realize that he has been “had” in the meeting. The reality is that all news channels have been had. 

So what are they trying to do? They are not and cannot influence the Indo-Pak relations, they are not enlightening or engaging the viewer, least they can do is leave the viewer alone and let him be.

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Prior to joining Madison PR in 2012 Chaudhary was Group President Corporate Communications at Reliance Industries Limited.