During my college days, I started watching the news on cable networks, especially The Newshour with Arnab Goswami. It used to be my primary source of information, it helped me form my opinions about politics and society among other things. To further whet my appetite, I subscribed a newspaper. As days passed by, I began to feel a dissonance between the two sources. Sometimes, I even came across articles that were diametrically opposite to the news being broadcast on television.
Whereas the newspapers, for all their deficiencies, had proper demarcation of its news and opinion sections, news channels had no such thing. Every story was so much laden with the opinion of politicians that the actual facts seem to fade in the background.
As an avid viewer, these news debates used to amuse me every day. Gradually, they made for a painful watch. I couldn’t take it anymore. So, I stopped watching news on TV. There were far too many opinions being masqueraded as news. The very notion of media being the fourth pillar of our democracy began to wither subsequently.
So, here is my plea to cable news networks:
You have hammered down debates to high-decibel knee-jerk reactionary talk. You have become a personification of everything that is wrong with our public discourse — uncivil cacophony, uninformed rhetoric, and disillusioned public. By allowing the loudest voices, however hollow, to speak freely while suppressing the rational ones, you have caricatured yourselves, allowing free run of an extended public relations arm of the political elite and the corporate. It is an obscene theatre of horror at its best.
Most of you have become round-the-clock, biased and relentless propaganda delivery organisations under the hubris of being popular news networks. And the worst part is that we desperately need you. We never needed your help more urgently. Right now, you are helping the politicians, the corporates, the ideologues, the partisan pundits and the like. You are an integral part of their strategies, so much so that you are not even aware of it. You have become partisan hacks. The people do not swim in the same ideological soup that you do. They have logic, you know.
Cacophony Is News
In the bitter pursuit of ratings, you have yielded yourself to the political cacophony that defines our times.
When you say that you hold the politicians accountable, that is deceivingly disingenuous. While you pamper those who align with your views, you denigrate those who do not, as if they have no right to have an opposing view. This pursuit of an unilateral thought process is not only against the values of our Constitution, it borders a similar disposition that our freedom fighters fought against so hard.
Balance in TV Debates
You’ll say that TV debates have representatives from each side wherein each party expresses their views. If this is a debate, then God help us!
Of course, BJP representatives believe Modi is doing a good job, an AAP spokesperson believes Kejriwal is doing a great job and an INC guy believes Rahul Gandhi will do a great job — they are supposed to do that. But are they really making honest arguments?
All you do is treat inconsequential gossip as a serious concern. You have a responsibility to the public discourse, to influence the policy and practice, and you fail miserably at that! So, stop hurting us!
(The writer is a student at IIT Bombay. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)