14 debates on Mandir, 66 attacking opposition but none on the economy
Ramit Verma monitored 202 debates on 4 Hindi news channels till Oct 19 to conclude that nationalism had triumphed over logic and rationalism. As many as 79 of the debates were used to attack Pakistan
He left his job with Google to become a YouTuber. And with the quirky handle of ‘Official Peeing Human’, Ramit Verma in his late twenties has been exposing falsehood, bigotry and chicanery of a large section of the Indian media and politicians.
While his YouTube videos go viral and his facebook page and Twitter handle draw followers in droves, he is in the news for launching a public petition against a communal programme on a Hindi news channel. The petition had been signed by over 80 thousand people within the first few days.
Verma, an avid media watcher, wrote in a recent article in Newslaundry that nationalism had trumped rationalism on Hindi News TV at least. The Indian ‘Modia’, his pun on ‘media’ favourably disposed to Narendra Modi, are no longer neutral, fair or rational. While he has been busy showing a mirror to ‘Modia’ through humour and satire, Verma also studied the airtime that news channels devote to major issues.
The result of his study has been startling. He studied four major Hindi news channels (Zee News, Aaj Tak, News18 and India TV) till October 19, 2019, and analysed the previous 202 prime time debates hosted by the channels. Subjects and the number of debates hosted by these four channels, he claims, demonstrate emphatically what has been known for a long time. But this is possibly the first time that numbers have been put against each subject.
- Attacking Pakistan: 79 debates
- Attacking the Opposition (including Nehru): 66
- Praising Modi and the BJP/RSS: 36
- Ram Mandir: 14
- Bihar floods: 3
- Chandrayaan Moon Mission: 2
- Rape case against Swami Chinmayanand: 1
- PMC Bank scam: 1
- Economy: 0
- Unemployment: 0
- Education: 0
- Healthcare: 0
- Public infrastructure: 0
- Farmers' distress: 0
- Poverty and malnutrition: 0
- Women's safety: 0
- Environmental protection: 0
- Mob lynchings: 0
- Questioning any government decision or policy: 0
(Based on an analysis of popular current affairs
shows: Dangal (Aaj Tak), Aar Paar (News18), Taal Thok Ke (Zee News), and Kurukshetra (India TV).
Prior to 2014, Verma pointed out, the channels would be questioning the Government and put uncomfortable questions to Union Ministers and even the Prime Minister. But while Narendra Modi has not addressed a single press conference since then, the channels seem to have abandoned their concern for probity and public interest.
Verma also recorded the dramatic and provocative titles that the channels gave to promote the debates at prime time.
- Ye Pok Wapas De De, Imran (Aaj Tak)
- Mere Ram Vs Tere Ram (Zee News)
- Modi Ka Prann — Pakistan Ka Cheer Haran (News18)
- Vipaksh Pada Hai Chakkar Mein Koi Nahi Hai Takkar Mein (Aaj Tak)
- Jab Tak Todenge Nahi Tab Tak Chhodenge Nahi (News18)
- Modi Ke 100 Din Vs Vipaksh Ke Bure Din (News18)
- Mangal Bhavan Amangal Haari — Ram Mandir Ki Karo Tayyari (News18)
The channels have actively pursued the agenda of downsizing the opposition, paving the ground for a Ram Temple even while the title suit was being heard by the Supreme Court and of demonising Pakistan and projecting it as the enemy.
Lamenting the absence of facts, logic and research-driven journalism by TV News Channels in favour of reality TV like episodes of Bigg Boss, Verma acknowledges that the formula has been a big hit with TV audiences.
Both communal and reckless, the news channels have brazenly flouted guidelines issued by the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) while covering the hearing on the Ayodhya dispute before the Supreme Court, he pointed out.
Verma ends the piece by asking, ‘When was the last time people heard negative news about a major industrialist? ‘.
He answered it himself. Never.
He explains that it is because corporate houses today control both media and politics. And echoed the call of TV anchor and Magsaysay Award winner Ravish Kumar by calling on people to boycott the ‘Modia’.