The death of Congress spokesperson Rajiv Tyagi following a TV debate has triggered a public debate on the shrill and abusive TV debates, which neither anchors nor the regulators like Broadcasters’ Associations and the Information & Broadcasting Ministry have bothered to check.
Tyagi fell unconscious soon after an acrimonious discussion on TV when the BJP spokesman Sambit Patra repeatedly called him a traitor and mocked that Tyagi was not a Hindu. Soon he suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away within half an hour.
Supriya Shrinate, Congress spokesperson said: “We cannot avoid discussing the nature of debates on TV channels anymore. The poison spread in the public sphere has to end. Most TV debates are abuses, personal attacks, meaningless talk and character assassination. The greatest responsibility lies on the anchors and editors to ensure vulgar language and irrelevant talk are avoided and discussions become meaningful and decent.”
Said Manish Tewari, former union minister and Congress spokesperson, “Acerbic and obnoxious questions are thrown at the Congress by anchors and fellow panelists. What is happening is not structured discussion but
looks like WWF (the American wrestling show now called WWE). Rajiv’s death should be a trigger for revisiting the debate formats on TV. For how long will the public space be vitiated for TRPs? I request the I&B ministry to cancel the licences of channels that violate the licensing code and regulation acts.”
Mohan Prakash, Congress spokesperson said: “I have seen two-three generations of BJP spokespersons and TV anchors but never experienced such toxic debates and vulgar language. In my view, the standard has been lowered because of the influence of the top leadership, the hostile language spoken by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah on political rivals. It is not that these spokespersons do not have an adequate vocabulary. The abusive and threatening tenor is by choice.”
Gourav Vallabh, Congress spokesperson said, “I can understand what pressure Tyagi felt during the debate. Our patience and grit are tested daily. To begin with, the title of the debates is chosen mischievously to send out a divisive message, to create animosity in society. The title declares the BJP victorious even before the debate. The panel is carefully chosen — one BJP spokesperson, one RSS man, one expert with BJP links and one Congress spokesperson. When the debate starts, only the Congress spokesperson is questioned while the BJP spokespersons are protected by the anchors. We are abused and insulted, vulgar language is used against top leaders, baseless allegations are made. We hardly get time to respond; when we speak, we are either muted or the volume is reduced. Tricks like taking a break or technical disruption are also deployed.”
“Have you heard any debate on the attempts to dilute environmental laws or the new education policy in the past 15 days?” he added.
A video message from Vallabh was posted on Twitter by the official handle of the Congress:
Pranav Jha, Media Secretary, Congress said, “TV debates over the last seven-eight years or so have become unabashedly coloured, biased. Their aim appears to not inform but damn individuals, the Opposition, and polarise people by deliberately rousing baser, negative emotions. Is the vulgar tamasha done to enhance TRP or to further the BJP’s divisive agenda? Are the vicious debates organised on the instructions of the powers that be? I have seen our spokespersons angry and frustrated so many times because of the naked bias of the anchors.”
“Have we, as the audience, become so frivolous and mean as to tolerate this toxicity? It’s time that the people take the lead and boycott such TV shows! Look at the orchestrated plan — all the TV channels were discussing the Bangalore violence yesterday and asking ‘why are the Gandhis silent’? Doesn’t it clearly indicate the sinister agenda and how TV channels have become the ruling party’s mouthpiece?” he added.
Akhilesh Pratap Singh, Congress spokesperson said, “TV studios have become dens of churning poison. Anchors habitually spit poison and execute the BJP’s agenda instead of giving news. Creating disaffection among communities is their main purpose. Media owners should introspect and kick out anchors doing this on a regular basis.”
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill has written to I&B minister Prakash Javadekar in this regard.
Film director Avinash Das posted on Twitter: