How to Report a Sex Scandal, Lessons from Indian TV News
Even a sex scandal deserves ‘burning questions’.
You start with a disclaimer admitting the ‘sex CD’ is unauthenticated. Because let’s face it, ‘sex pen drive’ just doesn’t sound seedy enough. On it should be Delhi’s Women and Child Development Minister. Because, irony; that he belongs to the Aam Aadmi Party, which unlike all political parties, claims to be pure and pious, is a bonus.
Finally, you have to let your audience know that you’re broadcasting the story in their interest. Not your own, but their interest. But since you’re a responsible media house with a century old legacy, you have taken a stand and decided not to air porn on your channel. Instead you will run short video and audio clips of the said objectionable video. Accompanied, of course, by a hyperactive red arrow over static frames. Because, Ye Dekhiye!
After a detailed description of an uninspiring room and Mantri Sandeep Kumar’s red “half-pant”, the video begins scanning radio waves for logic, but fails.
The 9-minute-video that follows the clip we have shown you is objectionable and against a woman’s modesty. We could have blurred the images and aired the video, but since we are a responsible channel, we have decided not to run it. But we will definitely air a purported clip in which Sandeep Kumar’s voice can be heard.Disclaimer aired by ABP News
The audio clip has a man, believed to be Sandeep Kumar, telling the woman in the video – “Don’t come around during the day and don’t talk to anyone on the road.”
There’s nothing in the 9-minute-video or the 11 photographs received by ABP news to suggest coercion on part of the man who may or may not be a younger Sandeep Kumar.
The Follow Up
A responsible news channel follows up a big breaking story with a few burning questions. In Sandeep Kumar’s case, ABP news went back to the 5Ws and 1H basic to ask:
1. Who made the sex tape?
2. Why was the sex tape made?
3. Where was the sex tape shot?
1. Was the woman aware that she was being taped?
2. Did Kumar misuse his position and has a complaint been filed?
3. Why are we pretending this sex tape is news that affects people?
Sabse daagdar, sabse bhaddha, sabse bada sex scandal. For Aaj Tak there hasn’t been a bigger, dirtier, more sordid sex scandal than the one involving Sandeep Kumar.
What makes it worse? “They say Sandeep Kumar used to touch his wife’s feet before leaving home... and now he’s exploited the very women he was chosen to protect.”
But the Balaji mis-en-scene would’ve been incomplete, like an episode to be continued... had Punya Prasoon Vajpayee not ended with –“satta ki malai kha ke, Arvind Kejriwal ke mantriyon ka charitra bhi khokla ho gaya hai.” (Freeze Frame)
Literal translation: Having eaten the cream of power, Arvind Kejriwal’s ministers have become characterless.
India TV Just Can’t Even Right Now...
India TV just cannot handle the CD, sex scandal and the cabinet mantri. Even the show is called “Yakeen Nahi Hota” (Just can’t believe it). The anchor says the “ayyash mantri” (characterless minister) has acted in a “behad sharamnaak” (extremely shameful) manner.
This prompted swift action from Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who concurred with most news channels and sacked Sandeep Kumar for his “galat kaam” (wrongdoing).
The Big Picture
Times Now found its principled self when it refrained from airing any footage from the sex tape and made it a point to tell its audience that in a rather long on-screen note. Leading with #AAPCDScandal, Arnab Goswami claimed that Arvind Kejriwal was aware that Sandeep Kumar was misusing his position for sexual favours, but fails to explain how the sex tape established that claim.
“The AAP has absorbed everything that’s wrong with Indian politics”, declares the Nation’s most watched news anchor.
Just Bad Luck?
Incidentally, Sandeep Kumar can sue the news channels for breach of privacy. For now, the MLA is see-sawing between claiming conspiracy and ‘wasn’t me’. But there is no known complaint of sexual exploitation by the woman in the tape. There has been no allegation of misuse of office or power. Even if one were to accuse Sandeep Kumar of adultery, the Indian law is grossly skewed in his favor. Being a non-cognizable offense, the police cannot even register an FIR against him.
Regardless, he’s been stripped of his portfolio and the police is probing if he has committed any wrong doing. Sandeep Kumar would be hoping the skeletons, if any, remain in the closet.
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