Prime time mimics Big Boss

BY T S Sudhir| IN Media Practice | 19/10/2011
Why have political spokespersons and other talking heads become so indispensable for prime time television despite the fact that the same faces spout similar view on many issues?
T S SUDHIR says it is because they are the ones who seem to be determining the news rundown
I find I am not enjoying `Bigg Boss' in its Season 5, as I used to. Not that it is less noisy or vicarious. I guess it has to do with an overdose. From 8 pm till about 11 pm, a TV news addict like me watches the `contestants' muscle each other out verbally on many channels.
Press any combination of buttons on your remote and you will find Abhishek Manu Singhvi saying in an even tone, ``You have given the BJP spokesperson 3:53 min to state his party's position, I hope you will give me the same amount of time.’’ Stand-in Congress voice Renuka Chowdhary will laugh derisively, make coy faces at the camera or snub and shout down the rival's argument, even when she does not have a view on the subject.
The saffron brigade has Nirmala Sitharaman, who has evolved from a pleasant, clearheaded sort when she made her debut to getting short whenever she faces short-pitched stuff. Ravi Shankar Prasad, who often mixes up the anchor's name (perhaps the result of working overtime without a weekly off) is another regular who spends every evening making eye contact with a camera lens, locked inside his study. Very Bigg Bossish.
Then of course there are the sundry Left parties, BSP, NCP representatives who get to occupy the `windows' once in a while. Lawyers and guest editors of the print media offer their opinion on everything from Nuclear Deal to Kashmir to Maoists to whether or not the media should cover a story the way they did or did not. Articulate freelancers like Suhel Seth tweet their opinion on a subject, making it easier for a TV channel to make up its mind. A controversial or provocative line is bound to win you a seat in the debating contest, provided you do belong to the small, elite, charmed circle.
Why are the political spokespersons and the talking heads so indispensable? That's because they virtually decide the news rundown for you. The news every evening is an update on what happened in the Congress, BJP, Telangana, 2G, Supreme court, Team Anna, cricket, the Bollywood Khan-dom. Relevant reports on World Food Day or solid ground reports on health, education, social or governance issues that can drive meaningful discussion have disappeared. States like Kerala, Orissa, the north-east, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are endangered species on the national news radar unless there is a disaster to report. Today they have been elbowed out by the `sick' Yeddyurappas, `fast' Modis and train-hater KCRs. It is like nothing else happens in the country. News, thanks to TV and social media by extension, has become a jugalbandi of media houses and political parties.
Just like the housemates on BB, constantly stalked by over 50 cameras, the experts who go studio or OB van-hopping during three hours of prime time, have to be at their articulate and aggressive best, to ensure they get a majority of the tweets or SMS votes in their favour. You get the drift of how close the shows are, don't you?

Having a 24x7 smug expression is a pre-requisite and if the Congress says Yeddyurappa, you know the BJP will retort with Kalmadi and Raja. And the anchor will say ``Iss hamaam me sab nange hain''. It is like watching a movie for the nth time on TV.
Occasionally, spokespersons prefix their barbs with ``my good friend''. Pretty much like Saturday evening, the only time, when contestants on `Bigg Boss' behave well in the presence of host Sanjay Dutt.
For all its hype of `Double Watt', BB this year is like BB, as in Blackberry, was last week; failing to connect.
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