Selling Nonsense in the name of TV News

Hamid Qureshi
August 10, 2017 OPINION 871 Views
Selling Nonsense in the name of TV News

We live in the age of information, these days information swarms us, comforts us and eventually it distracts us, in many cases this information pits us against each other and now-a-days a section of this information subconsciously drives people towards hatred, intolerance and structured bigotry. It is estimated that more than 55% of India’s population watches TV on regular basis. The concept of 24X7 TV news channels in India is still somewhat new and people in this industry generally say that ‘the game has just begun’. Two decades back, there were only a handful of news bulletins and media sensationalism at that moment was quite unheard of in India. It was indeed the western media which was prevalently more artificial but with the westernization of India, the nonsense content on TV too was adopted and copied relatively at a supersonic speed by Indian news studios. Furthermore, India witnessed a rapid economic growth but not many are aware that there was a parallel and bigger boom in media industry, especially in news arena. With this boom everything in the TV news channels changed radically, right from the studio interiors to graphics and from the attire to the tone of news reporting and perhaps more significant was the’ live news reading’. When this quantum transition started, instead of reporting the news, reporters began to create the news and news readers started to sell this zero gravity gossip to viewers in much louder and intriguing manner. The TRP of most channels soared to the peak levels but the content they were feeding to masses was fundamentally useless at all levels. Youngsters with goods looks were hired to make the screens hyper glossy and very few people know that most of these entry level news readers typically had no idea that what they were talking about because they simply read the script in front of them, the only thing they did was to ‘act’ whilst news reading. In present day scenario also, not much has actually changed.

About 5-7 years back, this phase of noise, glossy graphics and void panel discussions was still OK although at this time also viewers were taken for granted. But in last 4 years, this noisy 24X7 news drama began to imbibe the unacceptable political ideologies and started targeting secular people in a war like modus operandi. Although there is still handful of news channels in India which are neutral and have fair quality in their content, but largely the pseudo-nationalism and bitter tone has taken over the Indian TV news. The word black propaganda is still subtle for the content which is being aired by these TV channels. Few channels have been reduced to the mouth piece of some political leaders and sometimes it appears that they own those particular TV channels. Couple of months ago, there was a report published by a media house in which it was clearly mentioned that what sort of link the politicians or political parties are directly or indirectly linked to the major media houses. The era of breaking news is here and every logical citizen questions 90% of the breaking news. Either a politician creates breaking news or some political party or their proxies own this segment. When the political loud speaker calms down for some time, these news channels start talking about TV serials, Bollywood , actors, what they wear & what they do, long story short, they just talk nonsense. Whenever there is a mishap, the reporters are seeing talking to victims and ask a tag line ‘how do you feel’ “aapko kaisa lag raha hai”. This rubbish tagline was criticized massively when these news channels went to Nepal to cover the earth quake in 2015. The reporters were asking disgusting questions to people who had lost everything in the deadly disaster. This kind of reporting was ethically unacceptable and concurrently condemnable. None of these so called free to air TV news channels talk about fundamental issues pertaining to the increasing unemployment, farmer suicides, rising prices, injustice to minorities, rise of intolerance and institutionalised bigotry.

One more dangerous concept is fake news in mainstream media. The era of fake news on global level actually started in 90s when media circulated the news about Y2K bug. People were made to believe that Y2K bug will destroy all the computers once the year 2000 begins, it lead to speculations that all the banking system, stock market, aviation and internet will collapse, the computers would stop and the ‘world would come to a standstill’. Corporate sector spent millions of dollars so that they are saved from Y2K and governments from different countries collectively spend approximately 3.25 lakh crore rupees but nothing happened at all because Y2K was fake news which got picked by mainstream media. Now after almost 15 years of Y2K, the fake news has got deeper roots and these roots are nourished on social media. The monster of fake news in India has swallowed most of the TV news channels; random people create bogus Photoshop images and post them on social media which are picked by the news channels (without any verification) and they simply amplify the hatred and many times lead to crimes against a particular community. Recently a post on social media which had an objectionable image triggered violence in one of the eastern states of India, it was found that the image was taken from a regional feature film, it was morphed a little and embedded with hateful commentary, this nonsense too was picked by some TV channels and aired without doing any cross checks.

Not only the political propaganda, half truths and even fake news is being sold in the name of ‘news’ but there are many more dimensions to this crisis. Bias, favouritism, jingoism, unverified content and irresponsibility are equally worth debating. A classic example of media bias is seen when it comes to Kashmir valley. One can clearly figure out that in any part of India if any civilian is killed during any form of protest, everyone in the media arena starts to air this killing, the digital media (online news) too is quick to update their news in real time, however if the same incident occurs in Kashmir valley, no one cares to highlight this and no TV news channel bothers to arrange a panel discussion pertaining to civilian killings. Their so called free and real journalism goes for grass eating when it comes to factual reporting from Kashmir and they shrewdly behave as four legged creatures and talk in such a jingo-maniac tone, confirming that they are devoid of a microgram of grey matter. It seems that most of the free to air TV news channels have a licence to defame, malign and insult the people of Kashmir. They leave no stone unturned to abuse Kashmiri people on daily basis and they sell this non sense to entire India, resulting mistrust and animosity towards Kashmiris. The result of this mistrust is in front of us, we have seen umpteen numbers of attacks on Kashmiri people in most of the states in India. So how will these media outlets justify their actions? Perhaps they don’t care at all!

Author has Double Masters in Science & Management; he currently heads Talent Management & Technology Operations for ADC in North America and Asia Pacific.

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