Faking It 24x7

BY AJITH PILLAI| IN Opinion | 06/06/2013
Close on the heels of FirstPost acquiring FakingNews.com, rumours have surfaced that a mega TV project may soon be launched which would provide 'genuine' fake news.
AJITH PILLAI shares some CONcept notes on how to fake it right.

Dipped in Witriol

As the old Bahadurshah Zafar Marg (apna Fleet Street) saying goes, one fake leads to another. For those who didn’t know, in the last week of May Firstpost, the news portal of Network 18 bought for an undisclosed amount (one can safely assume the deal was struck at one paisa or anything above that) the satire website FakingNews.com.  According to a spokesperson of the proud new owners, the realisation that people have “an appetite” for parodies and scathing humour was the reason behind the takeover. She also declared that FakingNews would be a great addition to the Firstpost family.  Now, as we all know, mergers and acquisitions are never complete without a dash of speculation. So, close on the high heels of the announcement surfaced rumours that a mega TV project may soon be launched which would provide ‘genuine’ fake news unlike the current crop of channels which are often guilty of churning out phony and exaggerated true stories. When asked, a Network 18 official neither confirmed nor denied any such move thus virtually confirming that the venture may be on.

This has naturally sent consultancy firms into a tizzy. They are the folks who get excited even when a mirage of a possible project is sighted on the horizon and quickly forget about the veg burger aka bun tikki they had ordered and sharpen their pencils, keyboards and get them grey cells (no reference here to cellphones) cracking. And this time the first one off the block with a proposal happens to be the relatively unknown Idiot Box Machines (IBM), which describes itself as “an unlisted company of friends” who can develop programme concepts for news channels whose creative heads and anchors sprinted too fast in their formative years and have since run out of ideas and turned into suspended studio animations.

For the record, IBM is run by Small Screen Morgan and two friends who dropped out of college to register their protest against the examination system, which not only tested their patience but also came in the way of their afternoon siesta. Also, the trio would like to declare that the acronym and logo of its consultancy firm is in no way linked to the IBM Corporation--any resemblance being purely coincidental or a case of great minds thinking alike. Anyway, that apart, here is a sneak peek into the executive summary of their proposal which should reach Firstpost as well as Network 18 soon:


For starters one must acknowledge that unlike in print, words alone will not do on the small screen. You necessarily need anchors, newsreaders, reporters, spokespersons and experts for studio discussions. A blank screen will not work although some connoisseurs of minimalism feel that text and audio minus the human element will do for most news channels. But the majority of viewers need people, places and things and if they are missing then they switch off and send their TV for repairs or complain to their cable guy.

While places and things can be managed, the trick is to get the living props for the studio—namely the people. And to bring authenticity to fake news one needs to put together a team which looks like a collection of familiar faces seen on TV.  We at IBM have already identified look-alikes for Rajdeep Sardesai, Arnab Goswami, Barkha Dutt, Vikram Chandra, Sagarika Ghose, Rahul Kanwal, Karan Thapar (anchors from other news channels will figure in the final list. Also, those who feel they have been left out despair not —they can send their photographs to www.fakeIBM.con and we will Google for someone who looks like them). Incidentally, our search is very meticulous. Why, we have even found dupes for each look-alike so they can fill in when someone reports sick or rushes off for a holiday or a honeymoon! As for spokespersons, we have found our Abhishek Singhvis, Manish Tewaris, Nirmala Sitharamans, Ravi Shankar Prasads and Sitaram Yechurys. Work on locating duplicates for experts is yet to be started since one view is that several know-alls who appear on panel discussions wouldn’t mind coming in person even for a fake news show since they would after all be appearing on TV.    

Once you have the people in place (audio will be left to a panel of mimics, those who appear on the screen will just have to lip sync the words) what is the recommended programming. Here is a sampling:

The Multi-Star Blockbuster Cricket Scam Show: Top anchors (oops, their look-alikes!) will shout, scream, flay their hands and provide infotainment in an action packed 60 minutes when furniture is destroyed and mikes are flung. Experts/ spokespersons add to the confusion by having their own parallel discussions. Typical topics subjected to ‘sound’ analysis: Can bookies change the spots on a leopard through fixing or can they do it through just threatening phone calls? Is the IPL scam linked to inflation and will it impact the UPA’s fortunes in the 2014 elections? When Rahul Gandhi asked an aide for cookies was he actually referring to bookies and just got his ‘b’ and ‘c’ mixed up since one follows the other although not on Twitter? And if Narendra Modi is applauded by the captains of industry then can’t he also be the skipper of the Chennai Super Kings? Or will he refuse to play ball since the bat is made from Kashmir willow?

Devil’s Advocacy and The Lost Words:  A show in two parts featuring look-alikes of Karan Thapar or any other anchor and the devil of the day who could be anyone including the devil. The programme kicks off by the latter being subjected to intense questioning on various issues that neither god nor any pollster can answer. For example: Is Chief Minister Sheila Dixit responsible for the heat wave in the national capital or is the frequent use of the phrase “hot and happening” in city supplements the real culprit? If god is in the details then is he part of CAG? Why has heaven violated basic rights and not allotted the devil a sun sign? Were some Aaadhar cards issued with pictures of chairs and dogs instead of photographs of applicants because a man is known by the kursi and friends he keeps? Or was it a plot to defame the devil?  In the second part, key words are deleted from the dialogues. Typically “Do you think you are taking the nation for a ride” becomes “You think you are a ride.” Lost words can enliven programmes and inject much needed humour.   

The Big Fight: Participants come to the show in boxing gear while the anchor plays the referee. As soon as the bell tolls for round one the gloves are off. In the fisticuff that follows the participants, with help from the special effects department and camera tricks, pretend to fight it out for causes.  One group may support free market economy while the other can oppose it, or one defends the BJP while the other confronts it. Finally no one is the winner, reflecting the truism that there are two sides to a coin. In any case there can be no fight to the finish since the Big Fight has to go on and it needs participants.

The Question Hour: Six to eight anchors simultaneously reel off questions a la Arnab Goswami. The experts and other panellists join in to add to the surfeit of question marks. And viewers call in or tweet to add their two bit. For those who do not wish to hear so many questionable questions the solution is simply a remote one. Switch the audio to mute and enjoy the fun...

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