Honesty and anchoring
fortnight, in a prime time bulletin of PTC News, one witnessed a
piquant situation. A Ludhiana-based firm sold defective
paddy-sowing machines to farmers in Bathinda. When asked to take
back the machines, the firm declined. The farmers went on a dharna.
Rakesh Kumar, the Bathinda-based PTC News reporter, was covering
the proceedings. The firm’s officials approached him to kill
the report, which Rakesh declined.
One of the
officials forcibly shoved Rs 20,000 into Rakesh’s pockets and
fled. Fortunately, the cameras were rolling and the entire
episode was filmed. When the police was approached with the
complaint, they arrested the accused but discovered that there
was no provision in the penal code for booking a person for
trying to bribe a private news channel’s reporter.
Since the said
reporter isn’t a public servant as defined in the law book,
bribing him cannot be described as a crime! Archaic laws?
Unimaginative implementation? Sloppy legislations? Interesting
topics for talk show discussions, what?
The mention of
talk shows brings anchor’s role into focus. Must he remain
scrupulously neutral, or should he intervene to correct any bias
that might have crept into a discussion? SP Singh of Khabarsaar
(Zee Punjabi) feels that in case there is unanimity of views
among panelists, intervention can help prevent "hegemony of
idea/ideology", especially if such unanimity is directed
against someone who is absent.
Recently, he took
upon himself to present the Akali viewpoint when the invited
panellists— belonging to the Congress, the CPI and the BJP —became
critical of SAD. On the other hand, Ritesh Lakhi feels that
anchor’s intervention is necessary to keep discussions on
track. Often, one has to play the role of a contradictor in
order to keep the perspective intact.
Lakhi, this earns odium for the anchor. He often gets branded as
belonging to the ‘other party’, depending upon who has been
contradicted. So Lakhi gets accused of being a hidden Akali, a
secret Congressman, a silent Communist sympathiser and a
camouflaged Hindu fundamentalist by various invited panellists.
Does it worry him? He shrugs and says: "One has to cope
with such professional hazards".
Davinder Singh of
the Lok Bani fame has a different take altogether.
He points out that while in LB he has never hesitated from
taking people in power to task, in talk shows he rarely
intervenes because the concerned panelists must have full say.
However, he avers that one must not allow a debate to turn into
a self-promotion exercise. "Some panelists turn into gas
bags, letting out hot air just to monopolise footage. The anchor
must intervene in such situations" Davinder asserts.
Balwinder Singh of
Zee Punjabi, who has produced many a talk show, including Khabarsaar,
adds that invited panellists—both professors and politicians—are
very candid and articulate off-camera. But the moment the
shooting starts, they often turn ambiguous. Most of the invited
politicians are not sure how their respective high commands
would react to their on-camera utterings. So they resort to
However, he is
puzzled over the non-political invitees’, especially
academicians’, prevarications. Is the high command syndrome
responsible for frequent tu-tu-main-main too? Balwinder
agrees that this might be a factor. Nevertheless, there are
anchors who indulge in excessive verbiage, too. They need to
keep their questions/interventions short and cogent.
interested in knowing what the panelists have to say and not in
collecting the pearls of wisdom dropping from the anchor’s
lips. Having said this, one must congratulate the Punjabi media
for doing a good job of presenting varied viewpoints on
different issues, even though there is a need to ponder over the
British TV executive John Birt’s words: "There is a bias
in television journalism. It is not against any particular party
or point of view. It is a bias against understanding".