TV News And The Subtle Art Of Bullshit
Updated: Mar 10, 2021
Image Courtesy: Legaldesire
For the Indians of my generation, 90s remains an era of romantic Bollywood songs, exchanging love letters, waiting for friends on bicycles, watching ‘Chitrahar’ with family and respecting news readers. Little did I know then, that around the same time something had happened in the world of media thousands of miles away which would impact our country. The rise of CNN in the United States and the introduction of ‘live’ reporting was a game changer in the world of media as for the first-time news consumers were exposed to real time experience of the events. Never before they had seen a bomb being dropped or a rocket launcher firing, smoke billowing and someone right on the screen explaining as things happened.
The popularity of CNN in the United States was challenged by the rise of Fox News which disrupted the US news market with a new programming format – more opinions and less news. This was clever as it required a few opinionated hosts to take on opinionated guests and clash with each other on everyday issues facing the US. The format neither required extensive research nor on ground reporting. I will write about the transition in another article but broadly speaking, the US saw a change from CNN’s 'breaking news' to Fox News’ 'breaking views' and it was soon followed by the media in other parts of the world.
Now, let us focus on the largest democracy in the world – India. Media has played a significant role throughout the history of modern India. It raised awareness to fight against the British rule and worked as the voice of the people by highlighting their problems post-independence. At every stage of its existence, it has been representing people and asking questions. Today, the first challenge is to find who the media represents as the fox format is rampantly prevalent with opinions served as news round the clock. One section appears to appease the government, the other, the opposition and the rest seems to be pandering to the interests of the corporate. The only voice that the media seems to be interested in is - their own voice.
Who Does The Media Represent?
To examine whose voice has your favourite media house become, here are a few things you should ask yourself: What have you learnt from the TV debates in the last many years? Have they helped you in asking better questions on the pressing issues? Are you more informed as a citizen than you were a few years ago? Do you care to listen to those with opposing views? Who gets to speak more and more often on those debate shows? Have you learnt anything about welfare schemes, education, future of the country and have been able to develop your views on them? Who are the experts on everything on every channel? Do you know about their contribution to the field they represent and claim to be an expert of? Have you got a list of questions that you would like to ask those representing you?
What Do You See As News?
Have you ever thought of what is being presented to you as news? They show you the push-ups of a politician as news. They present a political party felicitating its own people as news. A silly jibe on a minister is shown as a matter of national interest. Politicians eating food with a poor family once in 5 years and visiting religious sites is news for them. A random statement from a random politician doing pure politics is news for them. A player playing their game is news for them. An actor talking non-sense is news for them. Think about it and you will realise that news is everything but news for them.
Eye-opener To Bioscope
The idea of reporting is almost dead, discussion long gone and all that TV channels do is create hype to serve none except their own interests. The presenters sound similar, play the same visuals, follow the same grammar, and claim to be ‘exclusive’! With the flow of money, the studios are becoming huge, panels are getting bigger and the fonts on screen bolder. Talking heads are always at loggerheads and the presenters keep tossing the topic to get reaction from all those who either do not know anything or do not matter. All of this is presented with a great pomp and show and subtlety to mask the sheer shallowness of their arguments. From being an eye opener, the media have relegated themselves to being a mechanical bioscope through which you get to see their manipulated world, not yours.