Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Content versus "Perception"

Let's start by taking a look at the snapshot below:

There are five governments that have a phenomenal above 70% approval ratings by the time of going to the elections. Here's an open challenge to all the regular CNN-IBN regular viewers - can you point out to us any 30 minute program on CNN-IBN that explains why these government's have such a high popularity rating? Any program or discussion that details the various schemes these governments run; how they are widely successful;  what are the loopholes that can be bridged etc? 

Ok, let's not tax the viewer. Let's open up the challenge to the office bearers of CNN-IBN (editors, bureau chiefs etc) - a 30 minute program (not a "discussion") on each of these states detailing exclusively why the governments enjoy such high popularity? A blog entry on IBNlive, atleast? 

And no, this is not about their bias. It is not the viewer's fault that the top 5 performing governments according to IBN's survey belong to the parties other than the Congress (or in Rajdeep Sardesai's words - states having the opposition in power!- yep, he described them like that and Swapan corrected him.). The question here is about the content. And that's exactly the problem afflicting the "national TV media". "Perception" takes precedence over the content!

Now, how am I so intelligent to grasp that?

That snapshot is from a survey related discussion held on CNN-IBN a couple of days back. The survey was done in Gujarat,  and there were two programs to discuss it. One was 74 minutes long and the other was 26 minutes long. Bulk of these 100 minutes were dedicated to discuss how Modi has cultivated an image; how Modi has succeeded in "creating a perception" that he is pro-development; how Modi has enhanced his persona etc. That's right - in this whole 100 minute discussion on "what explains Modi's sway", not even 2 minutes was dedicated to explaining to the viewer the various programs under the government. It was left to the Gujarat health minister to elucidate some of the programs, only to be cut short. 

It's as if Modi has created an image without any actual achievements! It was as if Modi spent the last 10 years in just trying to build an image sans any noteworthy achievements! This "perception" crap is applicable to the likes of Rahul Gandhi, but these leading questions won't be put to him. 

Let's come back to the program - another leading question was when the anchor pounded the minister with questions like - "Has Modi destroyed the organisation of the BJP"!! Even after the minister answers saying that both the General and the Soldier are equally important and in this case the General has marshalled the soldiers well - Rajdeep persists - "Are the soldiers given any prominence at all"! And this discussion is finally concluded by Rajdeep emphatically declaring that "I have been given stories on how the cabinet meetings are run. It is true that this is a single window clearance state". (All this discussion can be found from 41:00 in this video). The amusing part is how the Congress representative is cheering Rajdeep here - yo lady, you are from Congress and should be the last person to talk about personality cult!! 

Is that why IBN has named it "Modi govt" in the above snapshot, while naming the states for the others? Is the anchor suggesting that the other states have progressed as well inspite of those at helm? What not name the other Chief Ministers too? It's amazing how most of the 100 minutes were spent in trying to plug the negatives or suppress the details of the positives! 

Let's move on to the next program. This was for 26 minutes and asked the question "Is Modi Prime Minister material". How does the program start? By playing 4 bits of his speeches and giving a headline to each. Sample two of them here: 

What just is the problem with these questions/utterances? Questioning Sonia Gandhi's foreign trips is not "Prime Ministerial material"? Despite Modi clarifying umpteen times that he never questioned her health expenses, Sagarika Ghose goes on to spread the mis-information on air that Modi questioned her health expenses. As expected, the first part of the 26 minute discussion centered around Modi's recent utterances on "50 crore girlfriend". Don't believe me? 

A snapshot of the video at ~4th minute

At the 11th minute again! 

At the 8th minute - "Tharoor's 50 crore fightback".

Till about the 13th minute, the anchor was imposing her thought that how can such a "shocking" comment come from someone who is aspiring to be the Prime Minister. These same anchors never tire of telling us to look at one's work in their entirety before jumping to judgements, if they are criticized. And here they are - ignoring the multiple programs that the Gujarat government has successfully implemented for the girl child and women of the state and latching on to a single comment made in a different context! But then - what else do we expect! Half of the program on just one statement, with a recurring video of the Tharoors. 

Can't help but share one more screen shot. 

The anchor's face suddenly glowed. The reason being that Yogendra Yadav made a comment saying Modi will not fit into the "idea of India". Sagarika suddenly smiled widely - "that's a very interesting point you make" and Swapan had to cut her off saying "the idea of some people's India". 

It was as if an agenda was at play here. 3 people on the show are virulently anti-Modi. And the anchor was successful in having her say most of the time! 

So you see that's what decides "Prime Ministerial material" - the "perception" and not the actual achievements! This kind of content less programming is not limited to CNN-IBN alone - we can easily replace IBN with NDTV, Times Now and Headlines today - provided they do their polls too! None of them have any dedicated programs on successful leaders and their programs! Therein lies the tragedy. 

PS: In my opinion, this question takes the cake. In an attempt to sound complete, Rajdeep Sardesai asks (at 5:40 and again at 6:34) "Is there a fear factor in a state like Gujarat where people may not be inclined to speak the truth before a social or political researcher."