Prime time TV News: PM gets a vaccine, Disha and Delhi Police, Bengal polls and RG

In that entire week, barring one sensible Hindi prime time show, all anchors questioned the opposition if they believed in Disha or the Delhi police. Looked like putting panel members in a witness box

Prime time TV News: PM gets a vaccine, Disha and Delhi Police, Bengal polls and RG

Neeta Kolhatkar

Television news channels and Delhi Police educated the country about Toolkits. All along I thought the family tool box meant wrench, hammer, screw driver, nails and so on. But the news channels and politicians gave an altogether different meaning to the toolkit used by a young climate activist. Some even went on to connect this toolkit with Khalistan. Glad the conspiracy theories died down after Disha Ravi was granted bail. Sudden silence since then has prevailed.

But in that entire one week, barring one sensible Hindi prime time show, all anchors questioned the opposition whether they believed in Disha or the Delhi police. At one time the anchor at a leading English channel even forced an AAP spokesman to choose sides. This looked like putting panel members in a witness box. No new information was gained but a young woman was made to look like she was threatening national security.

A huge relief was Ravish Kumar who made a strong connect between climate change and farming and how the government will have to see them together. Moreover, the farm bills cannot be independent of climatic concerns. A special report of global warming was shown which stated how 1% rise in temperatures will lead to a decrease in 6.2% of the income of our farmers.

This information was from the Government of India’s Economic Survey, 207-2018. This special programme featured young activists who are passionate and working to make the planet cleaner and greener. There were many Dishas showing the ‘disha’ to us citizens on living better. I was hoping to see more of such reports on other channels.

Often leading editors of portals and more so television channels proudly display the achievements of their woke offsprings, claiming the changes they have brought in the parents. Change from food habits, lifestyles and healthy living, making some changes to make the environment greener. Or so their social media accounts have proudly claimed. Makes one wonder whether it is only a gimmick, or what their children do that is surely special, while what passionate climate change activists like Disha have done is anti-national.

Strange how nationalism is conveniently harped upon to suit the narrative. But then television news channels seem to be harbingers of the new culture of imparting official opinion as the only version of news.

Like the way channels tackled the vaccination shot given to our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Leading prime time news was dominated by visuals of Narendra Modi going early morning to AIIMS hospital for the vaccine shot. One report showed visuals of an autorickshaw going alongside the PM cordon. One report said the way he went, no traffic restrictions were put in place to alert or inconvenience citizens. Another report on Super Prime Time said, “at a time when half of India was asleep the PM went to get an injection”. The time being 6.25 am.

Seriously I didn’t know whether this reporter is aware that most of India is normally ‘awake’ by then. But then news channels are really cut off from the ground reality. Gladly, one report showed how to go about registering for the Covid-19 vaccine. Highlight being one needs a smartphone.

I was expecting the anchor would then go on to addressing how a majority of India does not have a smartphone or gadget or data plan to register themselves. What can happen in such a situation, we are aware of, but would that mean a majority of the poor, handicapped and those deprived due to the digital divide will go without this vaccine?

Instead, all channels had discussions on how the opposition had unitedly politicised the issue of PM’s vaccination as poll gimmick. Well, every reporter, when covering the injection story emphasised that the PM had worn a gamcha from Assam; that of the two nurses who handled the vaccination, one was from Kerala and the other from Tamil Nadu; that the PM greeted each in their mother tongue. Just coincidence of course !

Now having covered elections for the last 30 years I really wanted to ask what exactly was the message of this entire sequence of events? With six panel members shouting at each other, defending one’s case strongly and blaming the opposition parties, the truth did not change.

The opposition was severely criticised. Each said that the PM led from the front inspiring senior citizens to go get the vaccine. There were adjectives galore in the monologue introductions. ‘The opposition was selfish, it reduced arguments to a silly and absolutely abysmal level’. While another said the opposition made outlandish comments. On most other occasions we hear anchors lament the opposition parties have failed in being vigilant, more vociferous. Is our top leader holier than thou?

The hate politics seemed to be playing out particularly in West Bengal as one after another leader from the Bharatiya Janata Party harped on giving the slogan of ‘Jai Shri Ram' and how a particular leader (indicating Mamata Banerjee) had prevented them.

This seems to be the thread of BJP’s campaign that has been highlighted even on news channels. Around this time the chief of Indian Secular Force, Pirzada Abbas Siddique, part of the Congress-Left alliance went on to say rather shocking things about the Congress. The BJP spokespersons seemed to have been tipped in advance on most news channels. It could not be a coincidence that they knew exactly when to intervene and hijack the discussion.

Speaking of the Congress and Rahul Gandhi, a Hindi news channel mocked him for asking why did fisheries did not have a separate ministry like agriculture. Rather interesting, because fisheries and related matters come under another department. First the debate said whichever place Rahul tours they received only bad news.

The BJP spokies jumped on Rahul Gandhi saying fishermen and women were farmers of the sea. They all said since Rahul Gandhi came out of Italy and the entire debate then centred on that. I thought it was the job of the anchor to raise pertinent questions on budget allocation, making policies and sanctioning funds and dealing with complexities of fisheries and allied industry. But debates were reduced to Rahul Gandhi bashing.

While fuel prices kept rising, a Hindi channel borrowed cricketing terms and said fuel prices had hit a century. Significantly, the channels chose prominent non-BJP states to highlight the hike and ask people why the state governments were not reducing taxes. Sriganga Nagar in Rajasthan, Delhi, Mumbai and then West Bengal.

While social media was flooded with reminders of what the BJP and its celebrity supporters had said about fuel prices during the UPA’s tenure. Every second person then had demanded the resignation of Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. Outraged anchors had bayed for the government’s blood.

Click here to join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines