Saturday, January 6, 2007


National is not just Delhi
Amita Malik

Amita MalikEvery time I leave the Capital and go to some other town or city, I hear the same complaint: The national channels give only the Delhi news and neglect the regional news. Last time I came to Kolkata, from where I am filing this column, the complaint was about NDTV.

When I pointed out that Monideepa Bannerjie and her colleagues are doing steady coverage from Kolkata, Bano Maralo from the North-East, and Zee has an excellent correspondent in Guwahati, they changed their complaint to ó well, there is too much Delhi news of a trivial kind, about local murders and rapes. Plus, thereís also too much political news. This time the complaint extends to CNN-IBN and Times Now. Here the complaint is extended to "too much international news". Well, I suppose you canít win.

Even when I point out that IBN has CNNís international backing and Times Now has Reutersí, they complain that too much international news is about marriage break-ups in Hollywood and the royal family in Britain. And I concede they had a point when some time ago, CNN-IBN had an item about a Hollywood starlet who mentioned that she wanted her next boy friend to have a sense of humour. I mean, who cares in India? Indians are more interested in Abhishek and Aishwarya.

But I have noticed that Kolkataís channels are copying the Delhi channels in one respect. Their women anchors have all got into pants and coats and they anchor standing. A fashion perhaps set by Star TVís woman sports anchor, who stands in a bare studio wearing black trousers and a black coat. One cannot see what she is wearing underneath ó not that it would help her sports reporting, which is too fast and very elementary.

The Kolkata anchors, in contrast, prefer white trousers and coat. One has a hard time guessing whether the bit of colour showing well below their necks is a bra, a top or some sort of shirt. Again all this (what North Indians call) "booting and suiting" adds very little to their knowledge of sports. There is only one Sonali Chander, knowledgeable on every sport, confident and witty. She can even handle the loudmouth Navjot Singh Sidhu, which is saying a lot.

I have been thinking while writing this that the only channel which has a bit of local bias is Times Now. Based in Mumbai, it takes full advantage of its location and gives us quicker and more detailed news about Mumbai and Maharashtra generally, and that, I think, is perfectly legitimate. But returning to Kolkataís Bengali channels, I think they give a fair amount of national and international news, and expectedly, a surfeit of news about Saurav Ganguly.

This Christmas and New Year have been the most depressing in years. I am not referring to our disgraceful show in the second cricket test at Durban but am talking about the more general news. The indecent and vulgarly triumphant showing of the hanging of Saddam Hussein, which one hears President George Bush had ensured would be shown at prime time in the US, was generally condemned. Some Arab and Indian Muslims pointed out that you do not hang anyone when Eid is being celebrated.

Then came the discovery of childrenís decomposed bodies and skeletons in a house in Noida with the slants of girl children being raped before being killed and a clinic next door specialising in sale of body parts and for which it has been in trouble before. The anger and anguish of the parents, mostly rickshaw-pullers and domestic workers with photos of their children, were terrible to behold.

In contrast was the melodrama over Mamata Banerjeeís fast, allegedly for 25 days. Mamata being in fine voice up to the time she screamed at Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Priyaranjan Das Munshi on the 23rd day, left viewers sceptical as well as amused. Mamata Didiís TV appearances did not lead her very far, in fact it brought down her credibility a notch further.

On that tragic-comic note, I shall end by wishing listeners and viewers good listening and viewing in the New Year, notwithstanding the confusion about boxes on your TV sets and dispensable cable operators.