Sunday, September 28, 2008

Futile News

Great entertainments have mostly been tragedies. Tragedy has the capacity to entertain. Aristotle said that tragedy (causing catharsis) should lead to pleasure. His word has been duly followed by all the news channels in the country. They all have one maxim- tragedy should cause pleasure (and hence increase TRPs). This maxim was aptly demonstrated by the coverage of the Delhi blast on 27th September, 2008. All the channels attempted to make their coverage as entertaining as possible; however, it was neither entertaining nor informative.

News channels have a disability or amnesia; they tend to forget the rest of the world when an incident such as a blast occurs. So on Saturday afternoon all the channels exclusively covered the Delhi blasts. No other news featured, not even as a scroll. Fine but even this exclusive coverage was not exhaustive. They kept harping on the same thing over and over again for more than an hour. Every channel followed a similar pattern: the screens kept flashing, in big font and bold letters – Breaking News, Blasts in Delhi, Blasts at 2:15pm ( or 2:18pm in case of India TV), 50/10/15 injured ( depending upon the channel), while a reporter form the news room kept questioning the on-location correspondents in the background. The questions and their answers were also painfully repetitive and devoid of information. Within twenty minutes of the blasts every channel wanted to know the nature of the blast, also of the injuries sustained, the death toll and most importantly- the culprits. The answers to all these questions were: the police have not confirmed anything. This was followed by an uninformed tirade by the correspondents.

Some channels also provided graphic details of the blasts. According to Headlines Today 2 persons on a black Bajaj motorcycle threw “black polythene” and this led to the explosion. CNN-IBN claimed that the cause was a tiffin box containing explosives. India TV again had the most exclusive and unique news to offer: A Mahila Aatanki (Female terrorist) was the pillion rider who threw the explosive. And, she was wearing a dark colored dress!

By the end of the first ½ hour, post the blast the channels got hold of a visual clipping of a bloodstain on the road encircled with white chalk. The channels repeatedly kept zooming in and out of this bloodstain while correspondents discussed the nature of the bazaar in the background. Some channels like Zee News claimed that this video, which was played for over 20 mins on every channel, was a Live telecast. And Headlines Today thought it to be Exclusive.

Every channel claimed to have delivered the news before the others. But what news did they deliver? They kept saying and flashing the same thing for over an hour. By the end of which all the viewers knew, was that: there was a blast in S. Delhi.

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