Joining the movement
When they stop to think about their role will any of our television notables be embarrassed at the fulsome praise Arvind Kejriwal had for 'the media' in his long thank you list?
A HOOT comment
Monday, Aug 29 18:24:06, 2011
When they stop to think about their role will any of our television notables be embarrassed at the fulsome praise Arvind Kejriwal had for “the media” in his long thank you list? Or will they pat themselves on the back for having helped create history?
Individual journalists are perhaps entitled to join a movement out of conviction, several did join the Jayaprakash Narayan led movement in 1974-75. Individual channels and publications can make an editorial endorsement when they feel strongly about something or someone. But can they cheerfully jettison all other coverage obligations, deny space to anything else that might be happening, from Naxal attacks to developments in the 2G scam hearings, to the unfolding story in Libya? Should all debate and discussion over the course of two weeks be on a single unfolding event? Unprecedented as it was? Should news become reality TV and views, in that order? And how much did this had to do with it being a story that was easy to cover: unfolding in Delhi, with a people-like-us leadership on tap?
Granted that we have not seen people across the length and breadth of the land turn out quite in this fashion ever before. And that when something extraordinary develops, the media is expected to pull out all stops in its coverage. But is it also supposed to stop covering everything else that happens in the land, abandon regular programming, suspend all critical faculties and turn cheerleader? And why do our news anchors turn into orators and declaim so much?
Periodically the movement’s leaders, trendily dubbed Team Anna, acknowledged the support they were getting from the media. As force multipliers go, the role of some ten TV channels going live through the day, for two weeks can hardly be underestimated. Did it build pressure on the government? It certainly did.
And then for all that overkill, at the critical juncture they forgot to underscore the hard news. Once the parliament resolutions were adopted a sharp editorial operation would do a quick analysis of what the movement had achieved, or conceded. Not join the celebration party. Mani Shankar Aiyar listed what Parliament did not concede, but no reporter on any channel, no crawler was saying it till then. Yes the Anna movement had three demands in the final stage all of which Parliament resolved that it would ask the Standing Committee to discuss. But you don’t have to tax your memory too much—just go back to day one of the fast---to recall that Team Anna’s wish list had been much more ambitious. Remember the insistence on bringing the prime minister, the judiciary and the members of parliament under the Lok Pal? Had not Arvind Kejriwal till just the other day been explaining himself hoarse over why these were so necessary?
So was it a compromise, arrived at to end a fast by an obdurate septuagenarian? Was television afraid of being a party pooper if it said that?
The other aspect of media conduct which ought to have led crowds of Anna supporters to agitate outside Shastri Bhavan and the Prasar Bharati offices was the “see nothing” stance of the public broadcaster. Ambika Soni should be put on the mat by the people of India for the supine coverage Doordarshan did. If any crowd scenes figured at all on DD in those two weeks, they were likely to be in Tripoli. Their own cameras just forgot to cut to the crowds here. She can hardly plead non interference with an autonomous broadcaster. Prasar Bharati’s chief executive officer is currently the additional secretary in the ministry of information and broadcasting.
So there we were, caught between the Anna evangelism of Times Now and all the others, and the abdication of Doordarshan. Never before has so much television on tap offered so little.