TV News Channels
In the last few years, several 24-hour news channels have made their appearance. Not only in English , but also in Hindi, Tamil and other languages. It is not necessary any more to wait till the next morning to get to know the latest happenings in the country and the world from the newspaper. Be it the detailed analysis of election results or the the bizarre shooting incident occurring in an University at the other end of the world, we get minute-by-minute coverage and expert commentaries. This is not only a faster way of being informed, but a passive mode of getting the news. If all that is required to do is to just switch on your TV before making yourself a potato in the couch, why be bothered to hold the bulky newspaper in hand and struggle to locate the continuation sheet of the first page head-line news?
The channels compete with each other fiercely. All the twenty four hours. Every one of the three hundred and sixty five days. They have to fly or reach the reporter to far-away places in the shortest possible time immediately after the news-worthy incident has occurred. They have to manage fast and suitable comments from at least two to three people who have some expertise on the subject that is making news. They must frame a relevant question around the subject and shoot off a sms poll.
Only convey or even create news?
Competition forces channels to cross the line of propriety. In order to make the news presentation spicier, some of them indulge in exaggeration. Presenting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Mody as the worst villain of communal peace was the dubious achievement of NDTV channel in 2002. Freezing that image in the people's mind was a contribution by CNN-IBN channel. Even when Mody was shying away from communal topics in his election campaign this year, the above channels ably joined by Times Now succeeded in bringing the old wounds like post-Godhra violence to the centre stage of the campaign. No doubt, all the above channels received a shock of their lives when the election results in Gujarat went in favour of Mody. Now they can not present such a result as vote by people for communalism. They are in a fix and fumble for words to explain the result. If these news channels had not overdone their 'hate Mody' stories, they would be enjoying much greater credibility today.
Hindi News Channels
While the English news channels distort political news and exaggerate things in their presentation, the Hindi news channels opt for triviality. Any thing that will appeal to the common minimum denominator among their viewers. Look at their favourite topics. Rakhi Sawant's problems with the Law that played spoilsport in some of her planned dance programmes. A 60-year old Professor of Patna University who fell in love with a 20-year old female student of his and the resultant physical fight between his wife and the student. Star News goes to more absurd levels. There was a news story about a village woman who is troubled by a snake every night , the snake being her dead husband according to the woman. While the intention behind choosing such a story seems to be to pander to and even fan the superstitious tastes of the viewing public, the channel covers it up by calling a Psychologist to analyse the woman's delusion.
Whatever problems have arisen between Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan have been due to the mischief by the 24-hour news channels. The news channel reporters carried tales and planted falsehood methodically. They twisted statements and quotes. They screamed in headlines what the stars said in murmur. In public perception, the two stars have become two childish adults quarrelling for the sake of quarrelling. About nothing in particular. The stars are either the innocent victims of the 24-hour cub-reporters' unhealthy desire to create some hot news that will sell , or are playing along knowing the game fully well in the interest of securing some cost-free publicity. After all, any publicity, even negative one, is preferable to no publicity.
Not enough news for 24 hours
The world is big. True. Events keep happening. Very right. And the public have a right to know. Agreed. But so many fresh news-worthy events are not happening to keep feeding the story-hungry channels for 24 hours. These channels should reinvent themselves so that they do not have to stoop to the point of creating news where nothing exists, exaggerating events to the detriment of public interest and misdirecting the course of history by false alarms.