|Saturday, September 6, 2003||
disaster piled upon disaster in this country, disaster management seemed
to get more and more confused. The newer channels, in particular, seemed
totally confused, simply rushing in with labels like Breaking News and
Exclusive, regardless of whether they were making exaggerated or dubious
claims to both. I shall take only the example of Star News on the
subject of breaking news, because it was the worst example on the
Srinagar crisis. For over four hours, it showed exactly the same footage
of the jawans emerging from behind an army transport, of their waving
away intruders, the smoke and noise from the army assault on the house
where the militants were based and, most of all, the press briefings by
police and BSF chiefs. These were repeated to give the wrong impression
that news was being broken as it came. Nor was there anything much
exclusive or new about the visuals and sound, because many other
channels were carrying the same items. I also found utterly silly the
woman commentator in a black suit (western style to give the impression
of professionalism, perhaps a saree or salwar-kameez were
considered too feminine). All the more so because she was in a studio in
Delhi with a map, and not even on the spot and giving "expert"
opinions on the goings-on. In this instance, I would give higher marks
to the reporters on the spot, especially some Kashmiri reporters with
direct knowledge of the area.
One cannot help contrasting the American coverage of the September 11 happenings, where not one body of dead or injured person was shown in close-up or by name. It did not make the tragedy any less. NDTV has issued to its staff a circular based on foreign practice about covering the human aspect of disasters. I think every TV channel should get hold of it, because nothing could be more painful for survivors and relatives and friends and, of course, viewers than insensitive visuals and comments at such sensitive moments. An Indian media code for covering disasters is sorely needed.
With talk shows and panel discussions proliferating, and with the same suspects being shown over and over again in different programmes, the art of research is making slows progress on our TV screens. People like David Frost, Tim Sebastian and other famous anchors are said to have as many as 800 people working on research at times. So our smart Alecs, usually those younger ones doing programmes on cinema or running art and culture programmes, show up very badly about their superficial background knowledge when conducting interviews with the usual screams and giggles.
Two editors with talk
shows have highlighted the importance of adequate research before doing
what are undoubtedly top-level and difficult programmes. The first is
Shekhar Gupta for his Walk the Talk programmes where he has
walked and talked with a wide range of people. The other is Vir Sanghvi
who also has a wide variety in his choice of interviewes and subjects.
Both, obviously, are experienced mediapersons who know what's what, but
it is equally obvious that they have skilled and specialised researchers
to back them up, which makes watching their programmes so informative as
well as entertaining for the viewer. Of course, one of the best by
Sanghvi was his chat last week with Victor Banerjee. And it also helped
that Victor was an old friend from school days. I could sense how
carefully Vir had crafted his programme, relaxed and yet sound on facts.
I liked it particularly because Victor is also an old friend of mine and
I sensed how Sanghvi had picked out the essentials from a very varied
life, from a brief flutter with politics to acting under David Lean and
Satyajit Ray. Research combined with personal experience is the best
combination for a TV programme of this kind. It also showed that some of
our younger upstart anchors have a long way to go.