History in the making
Mannika Chopra Mannika Chopra

THERE are many good reasons to watch TV this week. Foremost among them, to witness the uprising that is sweeping across the Arab world. Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the latest Libya. Take a ringside view and watch history in the making, triggered by social media, as peaceful protestors are gunned down by repressive regimes and their access to the world censored.

It is, indeed, disconcerting to hear smatterings of emotional commentaries (BBC World), all condemning the deadly crackdown on people by governments in power as you comfortably sip your Earl Grey tea. But thatís the beauty about television. Itís real time somewhere in the world.

The recent uprising in Egypt and Lybia has grabbed the headlines of various channels
The recent uprising in Egypt and Lybia has grabbed the headlines of various channels ó Photo: AFP

News channels like NDTV and Headlines Today did parachute some reporters down to Cairo when the movement was peaking there two weeks ago (There was an excellent feature on NDTV 24x7 on the protesting women). In comparison, the more recent disturbances in Bahrain and Libya are being covered, as yet, through amateur video footage uploaded on Youtube and by using selections from channels like Al Jazeera and Bahrain TV. Both the networks are gateways to essential information.

Is it a question about accessibility or the fact that the annual Budget is around the corner and all able-bodied men and women employed by`A0news networks need to be within working range?`A0

Of the two, the BBC seems to be more adventurous than CNN in its reportage, using extensively amateur footage of the rebellion in Libya and Bahrain. You could also see Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffiís bizarre but brief appearance on state TV in an undisclosed destination ó holding a gigantic umbrella ó as he emerged out of a car for a few seconds to assure his critics that he is in Tripoli and has not scooted off to Venezuela, as suggested by some`A0foreign channels whom, by the way, he happily called "dogs." His claims that all is well, contradicted images of burnt buildings and enraged crowds gathering all across the country to force his ouster. The leader, once labelled the "mad dog of the Middle East" by the Americans after the Lockerbie incident, is back in the spotlight, and thanks to television, and the social media, like it or not, his days as a leader are numbered.

The second reason to watch TV this week was the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Dhaka. The opening extravaganza was quite entertaining. With cricketing captains arriving in coloured rickshaws and some artistes displaying fantastic, almost improbable places, to play cricket, it was a good engaging start to the cricket fever that is guaranteed to subsume the Indian subcontinent.`A0

Now I donít know if Prime Minster Manmohan Singhís conference with editors/owners of TV channels would qualify as a solid reason to watch TV this week. Firstly, it was not a press conference in the traditional sense of the term; it was more of a media interaction with everyone given a civilised quota for questions. No rough and tumble of the beat reporter in the PMís residence.

Essentially, a damage control exercise. The questions ranged from growing inflation, scams, the ISRO-Devas deal, the CWG and, of course, that old perennial cricket. Even though they were extempore, most of the PMís replies were carefully studied, as if he spent the night before practising what he had to say. And in one case ó the ISRO-Devas deal ó he even read out his reply that was so complex that it left at least some viewers bewildered.

As usual, the PMís style of interaction is restrained and to the point. Not exactly TV magic here. But the personality trait was infectious. Most of the editors, too, were equally sotto voce, expect for Times Now Arnab Goswami. This time, Goswami was ticked off by the presserís moderator though why the PM could not handle the question and the questioner himself is difficult to fathom.

But my most favourite reason to see TV this week was a documentary of the Prince William-Kate Middleton romance. The couple are to tie the knot on April 29 and TLC has been running a delightful feature on how they met, their on-and-off again relationship and the final acceptance.