Friday, October 5, 2012

"Tyranny" of National Media

The following post was written for newly launched "Niti Central" website on August 15th. Pasting it here for reference :)

A Kannada translation of this piece was also published in "Kannada Prabha" newspaper. Snapshot below the article :) 

Shockingly, the fact that every human life lost in any riot should be seen as a blot on the country is lost in the cacophony of  a studio.

No - the above line is not some random rant by another random blogger. The line is picked up from a profound article written by the Editor-in-Chief of the CNN-IBN network. When read in isolation, the above statement sounds fully logical. Now let's go back a little bit in time. 

On the 24th of July, a tweeter advised the author of the above article to cover all riots equally, be it Gujarat or Assam. The reply

21 died in Assam, more than a 1000 in Gujarat. scale and intensity, plus logistics will determine media coverage.
Yes - you are indeed reading it right. The Editor-in-Chief actually said that - it is the "scale and intensity" that determines the media coverage. The person who is sermonizing the readers on the value of every human life is the same person who put out the number of dead to justify the low coverage time on TV. 

There was outrage over this - many valid questions were posed to him - chief among them by a tweeter was this - how did he know that more than a 1000 died while the riots were happening in Gujarat? He later apologized for his tweet (followed by the routine "we-get-abused-no one-apologises to us" arguments), but I guess the cat was out of the bag by then - is this the insensitivity with which the delhi based english TV news channels operate under? 

The supreme fascinating irony in the first statement does not end there. Here's a quick quiz question - who moderates the "cacophony" in the studio? Bingo - the author (and his ilk)! The "cacophony" is what defines any primetime TV debate in any of the channels, and the moderator seems happy about it more often than not. And we are now being told that this "cacophony" doesn't allow the viewer to have the right perspective! 

There is one more important thing that gains prominence in the "cacophony" that is moderated by these exalted folks - the comparison of riots. Read any article, listen to any debate on riots - we hear only 1984 and 2002 (and perhaps going forward, Assam 2012 will get added). It's as if no riot (big or small) has occurred before 1984, between 1984 and 2002, and between 2002 and 2012. It's one thing for politicians to fight over "whose riot is bigger", but what about the media? Why are they not educating the viewer/reader about the different riots that happened in the country, and their context? Every riot has a context - the author himself tries hard to explain the "context" of the Assam riots and says it's not "black and white" as "bigoted" minds would think. Have you ever seen any article that explains the "context" of any other riot in this country? This "media" is doing such a grave injustice to it's viewers and readers by not bothering to even attempt discuss other riots, but then I guess that's too much to expect! 

However, there is one more profound statement in that profound article that definitely takes the cake. 

No national channel has an OB van in Guwahati.

He was at pains to explain why the "media" covered the Gujarat riots in 2002 more than the Assam riots in 2012. And all that they could come up with is this - No OB van and hence little coverage. The first question that popped up in the mind was this - why is it a "national" channel if it does not even have a OB (Outside Broadcasting) van in one of the major state capital? Fair enough to assume that they do not have an OB van in any of the seven north eastern states of India and yet somehow rub his charade of them being "national" channels on the unsuspecting viewer. 

77 people have died in the riots so far, which have not yet ended. A whopping 4,00,000 (Four Lakh) people have been displaced and are in relief camps - which means they have been thrown away from their homes. If this is not a tragedy that deserves exhaustive coverage, then what does?

PS: The Group Editor of another channel, NDTV took lots of pain to get into Libya during the "Arab Spring". She went in there illegally (or "cladenstinely" as B.Raman said) - only to show the situation to the world. And when Assam was burning (and earlier when there were massive floods), she was nowhere to be seen. Not even close. Tyranny of Distance? Really?



swati said...

Strangely, after that rude tweet from Rajdeep - the Wisconsin Gurudwara shooting happened, in which 6 ppl died - there was a proper coverage and even a huge discussion about "gun control in america."

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