Tuesday, March 27, 2007


If you, like me, have an unexplainable fascination for horror flicks, I guess you tuned in for the India-Sri Lanka match on the 23rd. It had all the promise, and delivery, of a B-grade movie: scheduled to be seen at night (in my part of the world), pregnant with a morbid outcom (c'mon, we all knew what the result would be!), and hinting at gore even beyond the TV screen (will Chappell stay alive???). Really, I cannot complain.

Yet, what horrifies me more than our booting from the World cup is the way Star News covered it the day after. For hours and hours it went on and on about our "humiliating" defeat and why Sachin should retire and how pathetic was his LBW and how are hopes were dashed blah blah blah. What bull.

First, it wasn't a "humiliating" defeat - Sri Lanka played great and fielded marvelously and it is silly to label a defeat from a superior "humilitaing". Moreover, the first innings (when India bowled) was definitely a good performance, so it is hardly like we sucked through and through, unlike what was suggested by the channel ad nauseum.

Get over it!

In any case, our team was hardly in strapping form when it left, and the only one hyping against hope was the news channel itself. What nonsense it aired in the run up to the match - 'Ravan' will be defeated by 'Rama' propoganda, along with Ramayana serial footage, fanciful promises of regaining the World Cup - honestly, Star News could have hardly designed it better to shoot themselves in the foot. The only thing missing was a prime-time telecast of an astrologer elaborating on the position of the planets and the stars of the cricketers to foretell the outcome of the match. Or probably such a program was aired but I missed seeing it. After all, getting such guests and commentary is actually nothing new to this channel (they've already begun to report on these lines for upcoming Aishwarya-Abhishek nuptial).

All in all, it is appalling to see in real life what has been fodder for some Hollywood movies - to find news channels creating news, not covering it; how they are making up a spectacle themselves, and then reporting on it; creating a straw man (we had hardly any chance of winning!) and then killing it (insulting and humiliating the cricketers). Honestly, I doubt anyone was shocked and hurt enough to hold those tacky funerals of Indian cricket (that were being relayed) if there wasn't an idiotic channel shooting him do so.

All this nearly borders on incitement of violence if you ask me!

But even that is not what I find worse in this whole episode.

We are a democracy. A democracy with a huge geographical spread where word-of-mouth is not adequate for communication. A democracy where literacy is so low that print media cannot be sufficient. So for us to function as democracy, visual media i.e. news channels must work! There is a reason why press is called the fourth estate - it is the fourth pillar of democracy - and if we cannot have a healthy, functioning media, we will end up as democracy only on paper.

Tomorrow, if the government enacted a law to stop the media from being free, if it banned the reporting of fraud and corruption, there would surely be an outcry. We would all rail against censorship and give speeches on how it would harm democracy. Yet, we speak nothing at the self-censorship happening in media houses today - where a thousand things that are occurring go unreported in lieu of a cricket match or the Lakme Indian Fashion Week. What impact on the functioning of our country do you think that has? Any different than if someone clamped a newspaper's mouth shut?

I've heard a thousand times how this is not really censorship - just a business. You know, TRP and all, and that what we get really is what we want to hear. But that is so not true - it is not just an excuse but an outright lie.

Truth is channels are just penny pinching - it is easier and cheaper to cover a Delhi university professor's love affair (yes even that has happened on prime time Star News) than the suicide of a farmer in Telangana.

And of course, it makes more sense for an advertiser to put his ad after a Fashion Week show than the aforementioned suicide of a farmer in Telangana.

Which is why farmer suicides continue unabated while we are having couch-potato discussions on how agriculture really ought to pay electricity bills when we have NO idea of what the majority of Indian agriculture - 70% of India's population - is all about.

It is frightening, how complacent we've become about the quality of news we get. It is tragic, how we ourselves defend the media that is poisoning our democracy. And that is what really horrified me about the India-Sri Lanka match. I hope it shocked you too.

Non Sequitur copyright Wiley Ink


Quicksilver! said...

Lol@ "and hinting at gore even beyond the TV screen (will Chappell stay alive???)."


Anonymous said...

Its a Game of TRP

Anuja Byotra said...

No, I believe TRP is a simplistic excuse which does not really or fully explain why we get the trash we get. It has much more to do with self-censorship for the purpose of attracting ads.

Viewers / customers are not the kings around whom the media game revolves - it is the advertisers. And advertisers would be determined by factors other than TRP too.