Lessons from the terror front

It's the festival of lights. And for many the festival of noise courtesy exploding fireworks. In the hope of reducing the number of those belonging to the latter tribe, we, at, decided to put a display of firecracker articles for visitors this Diwali. We have had many top journalists reporting, analysing, over the many years of's existence. The articles we are presenting are representative of some of the best writing on the business of cable and satellite television and media for which we have gained renown. Read on to get a flavour and taste of over the years from some of its finest writers. And have a Happy and Safe Diwali!

Written By Anil Wanvari

 Posted on : 29 Nov 2008 01:02 pm

They came to terrify. And in many ways they have succeeded, if, only, for a while. The memories of a gun- and grenade-toting killer army, spraying hundreds of innocents with bullets, lobbing grenades at will, will probably never leave us. Thanks to news television.

I believe that the efforts of the army, the commandos, the NSG and the police to flush out the Taj Hotel, the Trident/Oberoi Hotels, and Nariman House offered to TV viewers images that will also stay embedded for a long, long time. Mumbaikars, nay Indians, were concerned, and in some cases affected by the terrorist strike, and wanted to know what is happening to those caught up in the mayhem.

News channels offered them updates, took them to the scene of the dastardly acts. And they also exposed the government?s, the administration?s, the army?s, the police?s and their own lack of preparedness to handle the crises.

India is a complex country. We have scores of news channels, probably more than any other nation in the world. Hence, our country requires unique treatment.

While reporters on the field of all the channels need to be lauded for staying on for hours together, reporting on developments even as shrapnel was streaking around and bombs were exploding, the key issue is could the coverage of the carnage have been managed better? And the answer is yes. The fault does not lie solely with the news channels. The fault lies with systemic failure and understanding of crisis media management by the folks who took up the rescue act, whether it is the government or the administration or the commandos or the police or the media which reported on it.

The lack of planning showed. Did anyone have a strategy ? how to combat the terrorists or how to handle and manage media? It was alarming to see that no press briefing room was set up by the government or the administration or the police or the army and sound bytes were given by senior army officials and police out in the open. No protection was provided to either. Stray bullets, exploding window panes and shrapnel could have hit any one of them.

TV cameramen followed almost every move that the commandos made. News editors carried those images, but could they have been done so in a delayed manner, say with a 5-10 minute time lag right from day one so that terrorists may have not been able to keep a tab on what was being planned as has been alleged?

Could the reporters have asked more pertinent questions? Is there enough training being given to them on how to cover crises such as war or terror attacks? Most news stations internationally have war correspondents, who know how to handle themselves in demanding environments.

Could there have been more analysis ? with crisis and terror management experts being brought in - from reputed studio anchors rather than playing the blame game with celebs who spouted venom against the system? Could they instead have offered solutions?

Indeed. News channels have been hard pressed for experienced journalistic talent, and hence have been putting relatively inexperienced journos on the field to handle tough situations. That is permissible if enough training is given to them.

A lot more homework could have been done by the news channels, an understanding provided of similar terrorists attacks the world over, and how they were handled. In the process, they could have eased the panic and sense of hopelessness that they instilled in viewers and all of us.

The news channels behaved like little boys in a school race all wanting to come first. Each one of them wanted to flash that exclusive. And that sometimes came in the form of canards, wild flights of imagination being flashed as insights and breaking news. Some of the Hindi channels really led in this with a sensationalist tone.

Not that the English channels were far behind. The itch to be seen as the leader forced one of the leading English anchors to voice again and again that they heard the breaking news first on his channel. It was as insensitive as you can get when almost the entire nation was quavering with fear and anger.

Clearly, a code of ethics and policies need to be put in place. Because going by the lack of focus of the government on anti-terrorism measures, a terrorist strike in another city may not be too far away. We are living in dangerous times. Hopefully, we will not see a repeat of the media management exercise we witnessed in Mumbai.

The news channels would do well to live up to their raison d?etre well, that is, to inform, analyse, and investigate. Even if the government and administration are not doing their jobs well enough.

(Anil Wanvari is CEO and editor-in-chief of Indiantelevision Dot Com. He wrote this comment piece following the terrorist attacks on the Taj Mahal Hotel, The Oberoi Hotel in 2008 in Mumbai)

Latest Reads
Doordarshan now wants all matches of men’s hockey WC

Even as TV sports channels are wracking their brains as part of a public consultation to justify why proposed tweaking of rules relating to mandatory sharing of signals of sporting events is not a good idea, the Indian government has gone ahead to notify hockey World Cup for sharing with the...

Television TV Channels Sports
Balaji Telefilms reports higher programming hours and better realisation

The Ektaa Kapoor-led Balaji Telefilms Ltd reported a consolidated profit from continuing operations of Rs 7.1 crore for the quarter ended 30 September 2018 (Q2 2019, quarter or period under review) as compared to a loss of Rs 22 crore for Q2 2018 and a loss of Rs 0.6 crore in the immediate trailing...

Television Production House Post Production
3rd Sahitya Aaj Tak India’s largest Hindi Literature Festival promises a grander & a bigger show

Aaj Tak, India’s No. 1 Hindi news channel with over 25 crore viewers (Source: BARC, TG:2+,Mkt:HSM, Period: W29'18-W32'18,) kicks-off the third edition of its annual mega Hindi literature festival - Sahitya AajTak .

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
Excitement Tenfold as Nickelodeon India Brings a Week of fun to celebrate children’s day

The memories that we make as children always set path for the adult in us.  Nickelodeon, India’s leading kids’ entertainment franchise by Viacom18

Television TV Channels Kids
The Irwin Family -Terri, Bindi and Robert - come home to Animal Planet in ‘CRIKEY! IT’S THE IRWINS’ which premiers in India on November 15 at 9 PM IST

Lace up your boots because you’re about to embark on the journey of a lifetime with the family that’s bringing khaki back.

Television TV Channels English Entertainment

MUMBAI: A new study on type 2 diabetes (T2D) patients in India finds that obesity among diabetics is on the rise. The same study also revealed that majority of patients prefer to have fewer large meals as opposed to more frequent small meals which are more diabetes friendly The results are part of...

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
Cartoon Network celebrates 20 years of heroic supremacy of The Powerpuff Girls in November

Cartoon Network, home to the three fabulous superhero sisters, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup rings in 20 glorious years of ‘The Powerpuff Girls’ this November. Cartoon Network India along

Television TV Channels Kids
Eros International acquires highly anticipated Telugu film Amar Akbar Anthony

Eros International Media Ltd, a leading global company in the Indian film entertainment industry, in association with Mythri Movie Makers will be releasing Telugu action entertainer Amar Akbar Anthony.

Television TV Channels Music and Youth
Republic TV continues to dominate English news genre: BARC week 44

In the Hindi news (U+R) genre, Zee News climbed two slots to the third position in week 44 of BARC ratings. Aaj Tak yet again stood on top in all the three genres. Republic TV continues its dominating streak in the English news genre.

Television TV Channels Viewership

Latest News

Load More

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories