Sometimes I’m quite amazed at the quality of the discussions on TV news channels. The Shah Rukh Khan episode was a good example. I watched, astonished, as so many of the news channels all but turned into spokespersons for the American security establishment.
I waited for a discussion or a programme where anchors could inform viewers of how exactly the airport security apparatus works in America.
I waited for news channels to question this apparatus and ask the Americans about religious / racial profiling at their airports (of which there have been enough instances since 9/11 to know that it does in fact happen). I waited for them to find out whether certain categories of Americans visiting India demand a waiving of security protocol at Indian airports or not (they do). I waited for some news channel to bring up the fact that Ted Kennedy got an apology after he was subjected to security procedures (considering so much was made of how Americans do it to everybody and no one ever complains).
I waited for all this, but didn’t find it on any channel (if there was such a programme, I will be only too happy to stand corrected).
Instead, what I got on most news channels, from Headlines Today to CNN IBN was this: Indians are obsessed with a VIP culture, American airport security is wonderful and has prevented attacks after 9/11, it’s perfectly okay if they single out Muslims (after all, the poor things have had 9/11, so they have to be careful) and so on.
To say that I was appalled would be an understatement.
It would have been nice — but perhaps too much to expect — if the anchors in question had bothered to do some homework, instead of falling back on clichés and generalities. It would also have been nice if news channels had grilled some American spokesperson instead of talking non-stop to Shah Rukh Khan and to sundry people from Bollywood (including Salman Khan, who at the best of times, is impossible to follow, given his strange American accent).
Anyway, the BJP crisis meant that the spotlight soon shifted to that well known historian and noted intellectual Jaswant Singh who has been holding forth in his foghorn voice on his book (the title itself is in very strange English). Can you blame me for avoid-
ing watching news channels altogether?
So what else was there to see? Well, NDTV Imagine has a new serial called Basera. I saw an episode but don’t have much to say on the subject right now — there was nothing to like or dislike particularly.
I also saw an episode of Paul Merton in India on the History channel. It was all right, if you like bemused-white-person-confused-by-India kind of shows. Paul does the bhangra, shudders at the traffic and honking on Indian roads, squirms at the sight of hijras collecting money from commercial establishments... you get the drift.
And finally. I have to lament the death of the music channel. MTV ceased to be one long, long ago.
It is now a youth channel and is crammed with all kinds of reality shows, each worse than the other. (But they’re apparently very popular with the channel’s target audience of 15 to 24-year-olds, I’m told).
Now Channel V is also going the MTV way and filling its programming schedule with weird reality shows (in one of them, called Exhausted, sleep-deprived participants are supposed to perform all kinds of difficult tasks).
That leaves only 9XM, which shows songs of course but has too many breaks for Bheegi Billi, The Betel Nuts and all its other allegedly funny characters. Etc does telecast some songs but mostly, it shows trailers for new films. Anyone out there who’s ready and willing to fill this vacuum?