Tabloid TV has a ball

IN Media Practice | 21/08/2005

The context became inevitable with a channel transmitting live feeds from reporters in several cities on what impact this would have on the film.

Just two days earlier, the voyeurism and the insatiable thirst for the visual that would bring the star - or his family - home was targeted at Govinda. The actor`s wife, teenaged daughter and son were injured in a road accident in Jaipur.

It was Independence Day, nine people were gunned down in Andhra Pradesh, there had been a blast in Srinagar and there was presumably a lot else going on in the country and the world.

Not for our TV channels though which rushed to the hospital to flash in-your-face visuals of the traumatised daughter covering her bloody face, the son looking bewilderedly as the cameras panned on his undone shirt and trousers while doctors examined him, and the wife`s pain there for all to see as medicos cut her hair to take a closer look at her wounds.

Is this de-sensitisation really television?

More of it was in evidence last fortnight when Karisma Kapoor fought a court battle with estranged husband Sanjay Kapur over her five-month-old daughter. The same channels that had gone overboard in showing the wedding a couple of years ago now posted correspondents at the spot to go live and replayed shots of her wedding and her films in excruciating detail.

All other news was relegated to second space that morning of the court hearing.

And in the most unkind cut, one or maybe more showed clips of her engagement with Abhishek Bachchan on father Amitabh`s 60th birthday, panning closely on the faces of the couple who separated soon after.

Just what is the connection, what is being said here about a woman going through a traumatic court battle for her child?

Before that we had favourite whipping boy Salman Khan in an unsavoury controversy over transcripts of a phone conversation with then girlfriend Aishwarya Rai. It had all happened several years ago, and though the ostensible reason was to expose his links with the underworld, it was an occasion for the newspaper that broke the story and channels that carried it to air intimate details.

Such talk is only and only between the two. The desperation in printing and then relaying a conversation between a couple obviously going through a break-up was clearly out of the bounds of any norms of decency. So what if they were Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai?

In this case too, the `exposé` came just before his big release "Maine Pyar Kyun Kya". Another coincidence?

The tempting explanation for this blurring between news and gossip, gossip and invasion of privacy, right and wrong is that our paparazzi are still finding their way out in the ethics maze. But that is being way too charitable for this seriously worrying de-sensitisation.

Contact: The author is an assistant editor in IANS. She can be reached at 

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