After all the criticism of the news channels’ coverage of the Mumbai attacks, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has issued guidelines for telecast at times of national emergency. The guidelines were reported on all the news channels and also became the subject of discussion on many of them. In one such programme on CNN-IBN, Ashutosh (who looks after IBN7) defended the news channels, saying they had played a positive role and acted as a pressure point on the government, triggering off the removal of Shivraj Patil, Vilasrao Deshmukh and RR Patil, and the speedy introduction of a national investigating agency and a new terror law.
Oye its Friday with Aamir Khan
The coverage undoubtedly had its strengths. As viewers watched the horror unfold in Mumbai, news channels did give a voice to people’s anguish and anger; they also ensured that the government heard this voice loud and clear. But at the risk of going over the same ground once again, it’s equally true that viewers were upset by many aspects of the coverage: (a) the thought that reporters might have given away operational details and thereby jeopardised lives (b) the sight of mediapersons descending in droves on traumatised survivors and insistently shoving microphones into their faces (c) seeing reporters question victims/survivors (even those who were willing to talk) in such a way that made them start crying (d) one-upmanship among the channels (revealing that even at such a moment, they were not above capitalising on the tragedy) and (e) hysterical reporting. On the last point, it is true that reporters are bound to be affected by what they cover. But unfortunately for them, they must do their job as calmly as possible. It’s not as if we didn’t see this happen — Mahrukh Inayet, for example, did a fine job.
I’m sure we’ll see many more TV discussions around the NBA guidelines, with news journalists stoutly defending themselves. Which is fine — as long as they adhere to self-regulation in future.
Moving to the entertainment channels, there’s a brand new star on TV — Farhan Akhtar, the host of Oye! It’s Friday on NDTV Imagine. The one-hour show is a mish-mash of everything — celebrity interview (the inaugural episode had Hrithik Roshan, this week’s guest was Aamir Khan), song and dance performances, gags, jokes, magic shows etc etc. And what holds all these elements together is Farhan and his mad, irresistible sense of humour. (“And now — Neha Dhupia in the flesh!” Pause. “Neha Dhupia in the bones? Er..!”) He’s a complete natural. Frankly, it’s a bit too much: not only is he a good filmmaker, actor, singer, turns out he’s a good TV host as well. God knows what else he’s good at — making world-class pasta, perhaps? Or designing lehngas?
The other new show is Dancing Queen on Colors. The idea of getting a small army of item girls together (from Meghna Naidu to Sambhavana Seth) for a dance show is novel, but the format (judges-proteges-elimination rounds-winner) is anything but. Given that all the entertainment channels have the same tired format, it’s a wonder all of us haven’t succumbed to chronic fatigue syndrome.
And finally. The third new show I caught up with was Aap Ki Kachehri on Star Plus — real life courtroom drama with a difference. Ordinary people come to former cop Kiran Bedi’s kachehri with their disputes; she gives advice and tries to find a way out. I’m not a big fan of reality television, but must admit that Aap Ki Kachehri is shot and presented simply and starkly, without sensationalising the stories, and Kiran Bedi has a no-nonsense, bracing manner. It’s intense and more than a bit grim — watch it if you like that sort of thing. Otherwise, there’s always Raju Haazir Ho on Imagine.