Thursday, February 28, 2008

Article in The Pioneer - 28th Feb 2008

24x7 news on the idiot box
Second Opinion: Subhashree Kishore
With the flourishing of a plethora of television channels devoted to particular interests, one might be prompted to say that now television viewers in the country are spoilt for choice. They are no more dependent on a single state-owned channel as was the case more than a decade ago. But a closer look at the programmes shown on these channels tells a different story.
Almost all news channels are TRP-driven. They seek to get maximum public attention by whipping up mass hysteria and offer people what is easy and sensational and not what is desirable. This commercialisation has reached a new high as seen in the recent IPL player auction. The electronic media seems totally out of sync with the real India and its problems like food crisis, pollution, malnutrition, diseases, etc, except when forced to fill footage with stories of human grief or natural disasters. Aiming to give the stories a human face, the media makes hapless victims undergo televised trials with pointed, intrusive questions and insensitive language.
Of course, there are a handful of news channels that have debates and discussions. But sandwiched between promos of the latest films and never-ending interviews with celebrities, their kin and sycophants, they dilute the focus.
Despite its other failings, Doordarshan did its bit and still does so with programmes for farmers, coaching for school students, anti-drug addiction drives, content for family audience and children-specific programmes. Today children are made showpieces, conscripted to behave like adults with emotion-fraught mothers and relatives fighting on shows, termed as talent hunt. Quiz programmes have become a rarity. Games of chance, reality shows and film-based song-and-dance shows have become commonplace.
The saas-bahu sagas are retold with killing monotony. The jewellery, the make-up, the vamps and scheming ladies do not change. Programmes of the genre of Great Expectations, Surabhi and the like are always welcome. Sadly, nobody has the courage to ignore formulas.
Classical arts have become an anathema to most channels. Surely, if a director can effectively market a highly regressive image of the Bharatiya naari far removed from reality, he must also be able to popularise art, some real unsung heroes in society or, just for a change, happiness and triumph instead of tears and mean minds.

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