Monday, November 27, 2006

Open letter to decision makers at news channels

Dear Sirs,

I am one of many millions of Indians who watch news television channels every day. I turn on the TV as soon as I wake up to catch up on what happened in the world during the time I was asleep, and I catch the headlines before I retire each night.

I do this because the newspapers lose out to you in terms of the richness of the audiovisual dimension, because of your ability to cover the instant, because of your ability to take viewers like me to wherever the news is happening.

And in this habit I am not alone. There are, indeed, millions of Indians like me who turn to news channels for information about the state of their village, their town, their city, their state, their country and their world.

Each day, these millions help you earn your living, by watching your channel and increasing your television ratings, which result in your increasing your advertising sales, your distribution and all other sources of your income.

And somewhere, in our naiveté, we believe that you are the most significant player in the fourth estate, that you have a role in maintaining checks and balances in our country, and that the country will improve and prosper because of your efforts and commitment.

And your sense of responsibility.

Which, increasingly, is in conflict with your notion of your commercial well being.

And your cameras cover whatever is more marketable, not whatever is more important.
The most recent example is when ALL of you (yes, ALL) gave short shrift to the bombing of a train in West Bengal by terrorists, and focused all your cameras and airtime on a tragic act by a young boy in Mumbai that resulted in five deaths due to his losing control of his car when under the influence of alcohol.

Inexplicably, not one of the channels even bothers to follow up on either story just a few days on. Were they ever important?

And your cameras can cause people to break the law. And they do.

Earlier tonight, some of the news channels covered an incident where hooligans damaged the house of Mohd. Kaif, one of the cricketers of the current Indian team.

I ask you only one question: would these hooligans have done what they did had your cameras not been there?

They were actors without a script, a stage, a venue, an audience. Without you, they are nothing, they have nothing.

You are the ones who own the stages on which all can perform, you are the ones who decide who can act, you are the ones who write the script, you are the ones with the power to afford them an audience.
This is a considerable power, and, used judiciously, can do the nation no end of good.
Used irresponsibly, as in the Mohd. Kaif instance, it can cause the nation no end of harm.

You are asking us to consider important only that which you consider important.
Over a period of time, I, and all other viewers of all news channels, will decide whether we are in sync with each other, or not.

And if not, we will use the only power that we have left.

And we will switch channels. And with the depressions of buttons on our remote controls, your viewers disappear, your TRPs disappear, your revenues disappear.

And then, you disappear.


A most aggrieved viewer


Dina Mehta said...

I was absolutely appalled last week at the coverage 24/7 gave to their 'exclusive' interview with Brad Pitt. Every time we switched on the channel over 3-4 days, it was there staring us in the face. Even Barkha Dutt who i have a lot of respect for otherwise, was just fawning over him. It was quite disgusting really.

Anant Rangaswami said...

Last night saw Karan Thapar doing the same with Sanjay Dutt. I would have accepted this on some "soft" programme on CNN IBN, but on a show such as Thapar's?
We were witness to Jethmalani's histrionic abilities a couple of weeks back -- on all the channels.
The questions are:
Who are the manipulators?
Who is being manipulated?