Jaya TV and Sun TV battle over Cauvery

IN Media Practice | 21/10/2002
Jaya TV and Sun TV battle over Cauvery


Jaya TV and Sun TV battle over Cauvery


The entire agitation has once again brought to light how news reporting is carried out by the leading channels in Tamil Nadu.


Rema Nilakantan


In a free society, ideological differences between people or groups of people are par for the course.  But seldom have they been so blatantly projected as in the happenings of the past couple of weeks. The dispute over the Cauvery waters reached its peak in the past week  with anybody who is somebody in the disputing states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu voicing their comments to the fourth estate.


The dispute over the Cauvery waters, which traverses through the four States of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala started nearly three decades back with agitations on and off in the regions of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The last round of serious protests, which erupted nearly three years back, was put to rest following intervention from the Centre and the Supreme Court. But what could have been amicably settled in the intervening years through direct negotiations was left untended to culminate in the high-profile agitation of the past weeks. But, as someone remarked, "What is the scope of politics if they are no issues to rake up"?


The recent agitation owed its unparalleled attention in the television media to the large-scale presence of film stars. In Tamil Nadu the agitation by the film industry was spearheaded by ace director, Bharatiraja. The film fraternity took off to Neyveli in a bid to stop power transmission to Karnataka if they failed to release water to Tamil Nadu. The Tamil film community was apparently provoked to take this stance to counter the movement of film artists in Karnataka.


The Neyveli rally by the Tamil film artists, which lasted well over 8 hours, was telecast live in both SUN Network (Sun TV and Sun News) and the Jaya TV. The commentator in Sun TV repeatedly apprised the viewers of the hardships encountered by the 20 camera crew commissioned to cover the rally. Jaya TV, on the other hand had deployed 10 cameras for this purpose. In a country so full of rallies and demonstrations of all kinds, one cannot help wondering the motive behind the ‘live’ telecast when it could have been efficiently summed up  as a two-minute news story.


Politics made its presence felt in this agitation with marked splits developing among the film artists over the issue. While the entire Tamil film industry assembled at Neyveli on the 12 October, Rajanikanth was conspicuously absent. He instead chose to observe a 10-hour fast in Chennai on the same date, which was later shifted to the 13 October at the behest of some of the senior members of Tamil film industry. This event was telecast live on the Sun Network for the better part while Jaya TV largely ignored the event.


The Neyveli rally provided an opportunity to the film stars to demonstrate their verbal skills, most of whom largely spoke out-of-context. The piece de resistance item to the channels covering the event was provided by Bharatiraja. The director minced no words and carried out Rajanikanth and Karunanidhi bashing mindlessly.


This entire agitation has once again focussed attention on  how news reporting is carried out by the leading channels in Tamil Nadu. While Jaya News re-ran the Bharatiraja speech, Sun News carried counter remarks to the Bharatiraja outburst by the DMK cadre throughout the 13th of October.


Despite denials it is common knowledge that Jaya TV is controlled by  the AIADMK and Sun TV by DMK. Concocting a story to one’s advantage and using it to gain political mileage has been relentlessly followed by the two channels of Jaya TV and Sun TV. One saw glimpses of it during

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