Television

News channels failed to balance between news and bombast

In times of crisis, news television is the most vital link between the event/happening and the people at large. Many have been been going to town talking about how great the coverage of the news channels was during the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. I beg to disagree. The reportage by news channels was inept and at times embarrassing. Anchors and editors use their channels to lampoon politicians, and criticise (and rightly so) all and sundry. It is time for TV news professionals to rewind and watch their own performance.

In this information age, where even terrorism seems to be manufactured for TV, it is judicious to strike a balance between news and bombast

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Granted, most reporters and anchors are young and inexperienced; the lack of professionalism was evident. News reportage, especially of a cataclysmic event like the Mumbai terror strike, requires adequately trained professional broadcasters. In this information age, where even terrorism seems to be manufactured for TV, it is judicious to strike a balance between news and bombast.

I was appalled to see PYTs on a business channel which loves to have its women presenters in multicoloured eyeshadow ask the most inane questions. Hindi channels as usual were full of bluster, rhetoric, and the kind of high pitched reporting which they seemed to specialise in their crime shows. Even more seasoned and veteran anchors seemed wanting.

Sensationalism seemed to be the driving force of most channels, whether Hindi or English. It was as if a hyper-ventilated team on high octane was working on a new Bollywood blockbuster based on terror.

Every report the reporters filed was being made out to be cathartic. They have to understand that there is no exclusivity at times like this. On one channel I heard a well-dressed editor claiming 40 times that he had the exclusive story, about the dastardly terrorists.

People had been brutally murdered. Where was the propriety that the occasion demanded? Where was the sobriety?

TV news channels have trivialised politics and reportage on politics. The terrorist strike in Mumbai gave them a chance to correct that. And sad to say, they did not rise to the occasion

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Having many cameras on the scene is not news television journalism. Reporters who looked jaded, tired and asked the most inane questions don‘t make for good news journalism. Even the empathy seemed synthetic and the unruly way which reporters and camera persons jostled to grab a morsel of news was despicable.

What was also sad was the way some of the studio anchors were proselytising.You have to report. You have to analyse. Not pontificate. The studio guests were relics of the past. Please get rid of them. In this situation, you needed counter insurgency experts, psychologists, thought leaders to go beyond the news. I am tired of seeing the obsession of news channels with the page 3 crowd who seem to crop up with alacrity, no matter what the situation. These "quote-hangers" need to be mothballed as quickly as the vote hungry politicos who kept popping up on our screens.



The TV news channels have trivialised politics and reportage on politics. The terrorist strike in Mumbai gave them a chance to correct that. And sad to say, they did not rise to the occasion. While one can compliment the long hours and trauma which the reporters and crews put in, the absence of adequate preparedness showed. We have seen on television several individuals, institutions, and ideologies being ripped apart.

It‘s time for broadcast news professionals to pause and think about their own inadequacies. Hopefully, they will take corrective action in the days ahead.

(Amit Khanna is chairman of Reliance Big Entertainment)

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