Monday, January 27, 2014

What happened to the News?

I remember the days when I was a little boy. The only channel that we could watch was Doordarshan. I was not watching much TV anyway. I still remember getting annoyed when my mom and dad used to tell us to keep quiet during 8:30 News. Later the news were telecast in English again. But we used to watch the Hindi version.

Some years down the line, other channels entered in the scene of Indian television. The first one that I came to know of was Zee TV. Since we did not have cable connection, I sometimes used to go to my neighbours house watch programs like Antakshari etc.

We finally opted for cable-connection and in turn other TV channels when I finished my 12th. It was Doordarshan who kept us company till then. Since after 12th I left my home for further education I did not have any particular favourite TV channel. But I must admit that it has been years since I have stumbled upon Doordarshan and watched.

But now whenever I stumble across a News Channel I remember the good old days. I still remember the typical tune for the news followed by a Saree clad announcer with heavy make-up. There might have been cases of censorship on the news as Doordarshan was controled by Ministry of information and broadcast but at least whatever was reported, was reported with a complete neutral expression on the face of the news presenter.

"The president addressed the nation today..."

"India lost in the cricket tri-series...."

....and the list goes on. That's it. "This happened" and nothing more. That's what I like my news channel to serve me news. Today what is being fed as news is not news but political advertisements, political opinions mixed with presenter's own bias with extra gossip on top. In addition, we are also served special additions of jumping to conclusions without any facts, blame-game, selective reporting. If that is not enough, they also serve us "Romance brewing in BigBoss house" as a breaking News. I wonder how everything from cat getting stuck on a tree to pre-planned dharna of some group of people is a "breaking news".

In my personal opinion, since there are 24 hrs in a day and there are so many 24hr news channels. Not much newsworthy is happening to keep every channel occupied with reporting something sensible. So they are reporting any random events as news and do their post-mortem in the most ridiculous manner possible. And then there is another problem. With 24hr channel, how do you make audience to stick to your channel for 24 hours? Because without enough audience it is difficult to generate revenue. So what do you do? You present what the audience wants to see and not what the people need to see. You feed your audience with what can be described as voyeurism, titillating stories and pretty much anything that tingles their sensation. (That's how the term "sensational news" comes into picture I believe.) From Lalu Yadav's outburst to  Rakhi Sawant's blabber, you want to feed everything to the people because that's what tickles our perverted senses and tries to make us feel that we are "up-to-date" on what is happening in the country and that "we care" for our nation by watching these news so that we can take "informed decision" as an electorate.

In among all these WTFs, we do not realize that we are just a source of revenue generation and what we are see is not news but political opinions, alliance and allegiance being thrust down our throats. Please see the following video

And here are the links to the Press Council of India's report on paid media :