On mocking TV journalism

BY Indian Express| IN Media Practice | 13/02/2010
JEHANGIR POCHA, The co-promoter of NewsX, was not amused by SHAILAJA BAJPAI’s half-humorous take on TV news in the week gone by.
Excerpted from the Indian Express of February 11 and February 13, 2010



Apparently definitely


Shailaja Bajpai




‘TV journalism is not easy’


Jehangir S. Pocha



The idea is to be as communicative and clear as possible but so often we find people on television determined to make statements which make no sense, deliberately or unwittingly. It’s as though they are unsure of what to say. Thus, NewsX, last Friday, while describing Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Mumbai, said: "He seems to have called the Shiv Sena’s bluff. At least apparently."

Thus, Rahul Bhatt, when asked what David Headley had told him about being in Pakistan by NDTV 24x7, replied, "He spoke of Pakistan as the Wild West."

NDTV: "What did he mean?"

Bhatt: "As in the Wild West?" Right, gotcha.

Perhaps Bhatt’s problem was that he believed if he repeated himself often enough, he would be believed. That, or he had been told to rein in his tongue (just to keep the Wild West in its saddle!). At least, apparently.

NDTV: "You did not know his name was Rana?"

Bhatt: "Absolutely not".

NDTV: "You never heard of Rana?"

Bhatt: "Absolutely never."

NDTV: Blah, blah, blah?

Bhatt: "Absolutely not."

This was one of those interviews in which the person asking the questions parted with more information than the person who answered them. Definitely. For sure. And any other definitive terms you can think of.

Shah Rukh Khan’s speech defect is that he talks too much. Absolutely too much. And in quotable quotes format. Especially when he is pitted against himself, as he was last Monday night when he answered Barkha Dutt on NDTV 24x7 even as he listened to Rajdeep Sardesai’s questions on CNN-IBN. You are entranced by his way with words but at the end of the 60 minutes, it’s as if you have watched him in a full-length Bollywood blockbuster because he has run through his entire acting repertoire: funny (all the time), smart and Kennedyesque (don’t ask if Mumbai belongs to all, ask who belongs to Mumbai • I belong to Mumbai), tearful (I am great at being an Indian), modest ( I am not powerful), caring (Uddhav is a very sweet person), combative (No one can take away my Indianness), frank (I am a self-serving actor), so on and so forth.

It was a quintessential SRK performance, full of bravura and throwaway lines you caught but could not hold onto because they were coming at you by the dozen. Two remarks left their imprint: he admitted to Dutt that the decision not to choose Pakistani players for the IPL was a business one and to Sardesai he promised to speak up on issues that troubled him: "The time has come". What can we say but "Absolutely"?

And should we say, "Absolutely not" to India TV’s comparison of Raj Thackeray with Mohammed Ali Jinnah? Reporting on Thackeray’s latest comments on Mumbai for Maharashtrians, the news channel suggested that Raj was behaving like the founding father of Pakistan and that he would eventually try to separate Maharashtra from India. "We could not stop Jinnah," it proclaimed in awful tones, "but Raj can be stopped". Whereupon one Raj look-alike popped up on the TV screen dressed like Jinnah! We may accuse Jinnah of many faults • but comparing him to Raj T?

In a week when national politics has been a soap opera worthy of Ekta Kapoor’s skills, dominated by the exploits of an ageing patriarch, his loyal son and heir, his rebellious nephew, the divided Thackeray family found itself on the defensive against SRK and Rahul Gandhi whose Mumbai visit and diversionary tactics ensured that TV news stayed with him rather than straying towards the Shiv Sena black protests. It was eventually rescued from its self-inflicted wounds by none other than another Maharashtrian, Sharad Pawar.

News24 described what happened at the meeting between the NCP leader and Bal Thackeray in words that seem to have left little room for confusion or misunderstanding: "Thackeray ke saamne, Pawar ka surrender".

At least apparently.





I read with interest the article ‘Apparently definitely’ by Shailaja Bajpai (IE, February 11). It is easy to mock TV journalism in India. It is new, financially handicapped by India’s minuscule advertising market, unsupported by educational institutions and the government, and burdened by the weight of distorted policies and practices.

Yet, every day thousands of TV journalists all across the country work 18-hour days to bring viewers the news newspapers only tell them about 24 hours later, and websites then proceed to "borrow". As students, many of these TV professionals, like those across industries, have been cheated by an education system that has not prepared them for the demands of the real world. As professionals, they have also been neglected by India’s much-vaunted media barons, who have never really invested in training. And they carry the burdens placed on them by superiors like me who have to struggle with meagre news gathering budgets because a staggering 30 to 35 per cent of a TV channel’s budget goes to paying off cable and digital distributors who are being allowed by government inaction and the collusion of certain TV companies themselves, to milk the industry (and viewers) dry. While the right to mock TV journalists is certainly Bajpai’s, her denigration seems myopic and gratuitous, even mean-spirited, given that she spared no thought for the above.

But what I find most ironical about Bajpai’s piece is that as per the standard practice of newspapers, it must have been edited four times by three different people before getting published. In live TV, journalists do not enjoy the luxury of having their work repeatedly corrected. I wonder how The Indian Express or any other newspaper in the country would read if they printed the raw, unedited copy of their journalists and columnists. And this despite print journalism being 200 years old in India. I hope this gives Bajpai and other commentators something to ponder before making their next set of profound observations on TV journalists.



Jehangir S. Pocha , co-promoter, NewsX



Subscribe To The Newsletter
The new term for self censorship is voluntary censorship, as proposed by companies like Netflix and Hotstar. ET reports that streaming video service Amazon Prime is opposing a move by its peers to adopt a voluntary censorship code in anticipation of the Indian government coming up with its own rules. Amazon is resisting because it fears that it may alienate paying subscribers.                   

Clearly, the run to the 2019 elections is on. A journalist received a call from someone saying they were from Aajtak channel and were conducting a survey, asking whom she was going to vote for in 2019. On being told that her vote was secret, the caller assumed she wasn't going to vote for 'Modiji'. The caller, a woman, also didn't identify herself. A month or two earlier the same journalist received a call, this time from a man, asking if she was going to vote for the BSP.                 

View More