Saturday, July 23, 2005

Sabse tez ya sabse dumb?


A prime time news item on NDTV India last night: Yuvraj Singh goes in for a 'new look'.

Forget the debate about what constitutes news... I couldn't even figure out what new look. It just seemed like a stylist had ruffled her fingers through his hair.

And yet, 3 whole minutes - or maybe more - was spent discussing it. And what Yuvraj likes to wear. And which cricketers he thinks dress well. And so and so forth.

It's great that our news channels have moved beyond covering politicians. So every time Mayawati sneezes she does not make headlines. But the channels have not figured out what to air as a replacement, and this problem is especially acute with the 'mass' or Hindi news networks.

This is actually phase 3 in the television news shift.

In the DD era, news used to be autocratic. Salma Sultan, with a rose in her hair, read out details of the PM's daily schedule - cutting ribbons, launching books, being received at the airport.

In the Aaj Tak era, the coverage became more democratic - politicians of every hue got their mugs on air.

In the Too-Many-Channels-To-Count era - dumbocracy rules. Channel heads realised no one really cares about netalog's antics. So given that there is no earthquake, plane crash or terrorist bombing, you gotta load up on 'human interest' stories.

Now what constitutes interest, and to which humans is the question. For example, a couple of weeks ago, Zee News ran a detailed segment on how the planetary alignment of Rahu, Ketu and Shani is expected to impact inflation (I am not kidding!).

This was followed by a segment on how petrol pumps in Delhi are giving out saplings to car owners in Delhi in a bid to encourage planting of trees. One sapling for every litre of petrol filled. A noble but ludicrous scheme - but one which got covered as 'news'.

And there lies the crux of the matter. These are really what newspapers publish under 'features' - except there is no such classification in broadcast. So everything - from the earth-shattering to the inane is lumped into one big basket.

Why am I watching this channels, anyways, you might ask? Well, I'm not. But given that surfing constitutes 90% of TV viewing for many of us, you absorb bits of their coverage by default. The answer is to flick the button and move on...

So, dumb down all you will, for all I care. But please, Yuvraj, the next time you want a 'new look' get a real hairstylist. Borrow Aamir Khan's.

14 comments:

  1. As an editor of a newspaper you have fallen short of suggesting what these channels could cover instead of throwing away three minutes on some celebrity's hairdo.

    I think we get what we deserve. any cerebral stuff i dare to surmise would fall on deaf ears

    ReplyDelete
  2. agreed that there is some dumbing down of news but there are some shows that are really interesting--ndtvprofit has some nice shows-sure its a business news channel--but they care to have a show with documentaries---they're interesting enough

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are right. But dont you think that there is a problem with us the audience as well. Anything related to celebrities we watch with more interest than a big fight on NDTV with a not so interesting topic.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've said this before, and I say it again, Writing 24 hours of content 7 days a week is difficult.

    I wholeheartedly agree on the Aamir Khan bit though.

    ReplyDelete
  5. news channels r not into samaaj-seva. They would do everything to increase their TRPs, even if it means reporting about Yuvraj Singh's 'new' hairdo. Who defines what is 'ludicrous'? Its all relative. Does every news item on primetime need to be of national importance?
    It would have been good if your blog had given some constructive tips to these news channels. Just smashing everything left right and center is not done.

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  6. news channels r not into samaaj-seva. They would do everything to increase their TRPs, even if it means reporting about Yuvraj Singh's 'new' hairdo. Who defines what is 'ludicrous'? Its all relative. Does every news item on primetime need to be of national importance?
    It would have been good if your blog had given some constructive tips to these news channels. Just smashing everything left right and center is not done.

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  7. hmm...jo shishe ke ghar me rehte hain woh dusaron ke ghar patthar feka nahi karate...
    i know wht JAM contains..
    but it still works..wht say thn??

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is the inevitable Americanization of news where human interest is of paramount importance....where Tom Cruise getting water sprayed with a fake flower is "news"

    And an example of a political discussion on a prime time cable news show---Is US a "good" country ?(Whatever that means)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Good post, Rashmi...

    I should not be saying this, but I find Yuvraj's look as always "I am seeing a girl first time in life" type...

    By the way , please read my post on the effect of Excessive news coverage at ChutneySpears titled "I want Rajiv Gandhi back"

    ReplyDelete
  10. My point is at least Yuvraj should HAVE a new hairdo.

    While I agree we get what we deserve it's also true that there is lack of quality control because the medium has grown so fast that most of the reporters are rookies with very little experience or judgement. Hopefully, that will change with time.

    Aditya, JAM is a magazine, it is a creative platform for young people. We do not claim to to bring you news - so why compare apples and oranges?

    ReplyDelete
  11. great post. i watch tv about once a year, and feel guilty for not trying to watch the bbc, or discovery channel..but something about the medium just makes me give up. too loud, too many colours, too jumpy...:))

    ReplyDelete
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