As the clock strikes 9, my mother and father run to different rooms to get their daily prescription of Indian primetime journalism. The divergence isn’t their lack of agreement on the ideal room temperature but the absence of a common consensus regarding the news outlet they subject themselves to. On the one hand, my mother prefers watching Ravish on NDTV; my father opts for Rajat Sharma of India TV.
My father’s choice leaves me puzzled since he is the same person who has NDTV English put on permanently in his office. Ask anyone who has the slightest idea about Indian journalism, and he will tell you how these two channels cannot be farther from each other. Upon a lot of deliberation, I conclude that even though he thinks NDTV’s journalism brand is more responsible, he is drawn to the narrative Rajat Sharma builds about the nationalist agenda, BJP, and the man with a self-proclaimed ’56-inch ka Seena’.
My tryst with Indian Media started when I was all of 13-years-old. Though I had seen my father watch Barkha Dutt, Prannoy Roy and Rajdeep Sardesai, it was Arnab who brought the family together at the dinner table. Call it my immaturity, but I looked at the news as more of a source of entertainment than information, and thus Arnab was the perfect fit. Howling away to glory, he would have four people represent one side, and one represents another. All in the name of ‘balanced opinions’.
It was the Congress that was in power in 2013; it would always be a poor Congressman who would be at the receiving end of Arnab’s wrath. You would think that Arnab was anti-establishment and thus targeted Congress, which isn’t a bad thing. The only problem is, it’s 2020, and he is still doing the same. Even today, all the ‘nation wants to know’, according to him, is how Congress is worse than BJP. Demanding no accountability from the ruling dispensation, the BJP spokespersons are inevitably having a gala time in his primetime debates.
There was a time when the news outlets would try to pretend to endorse unbiased journalism, but now, even that pretentiousness is gone. All you have is a bunch of channels unabashedly pushing forward their propaganda. Depending upon the side of the political spectrum you are on, you choose the channel, and then that channel will go on to tell you everything you want to hear. If like a lot of Indians, you associate with the right-wing, you have the luxury of choosing from an array of options. But, if unfortunately, you lean towards the left, the only mainstream choice you have is NDTV.
Though I can’t entirely agree with NDTV on a lot of different accounts (I have always thought Ravish could be a little more positive about the state of affairs and not criticize for the sake of it), I would credit it for coming up with the word ‘Godi media’.
It might seem like an exaggeration but tune in to India TV at 9 pm, and you will see Rajat Sharma (of Aap ki Adalat fame) reading out News like the spirit of a BJP spokesperson has possessed him.
Consider yourself lucky if you find the likes of mainstream news channels such as News18, Zee News, and Aaj Tak debating issues other than Ram Janmabhoomi, and Ayodhya. It doesn’t surprise that the mainstream Indian media thought it would be better to cover a bunch of MLAs hiding in a resort than the Assam floods. The hunger for sky-rocketing TRPs has made Indian Media stoop down even lower than before, which is an achievement.
Yes, people will argue that it is not all that bad. And I agree. For people like Sambit Patra, these times couldn’t get better. For the uninitiated, Sambit Patra is the BJP’s National spokesperson notorious for giving his opponents nicknames such as ‘Maulana’ and ‘Daadhi wale Jinnah’ (a bearded Jinnah) on live television. In a conclave by ABP News, an audience member gave an antidote on how his little daughter, who earlier used to watch cartoons, now insists on watching Sambit Patra’s debates. That sums up the situation the best. Not to say that his Congress counterparts are any better. Everyone wins, except for the audience.
Instead of serving as a ray of hope, the Indian Media has become a bigger problem. It is time for them to reinvent themselves and forgo the short-run profits for the long term benefits of the viewers. But until that time, the audience should use their discretion to decide what should be watched and what not. There is enough hate in today’s times, even without the media contributing to it.