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At long last news channels seem to have grown up

Have news channels finally grown up? Have they seen the light and realised that there is life beyond sansanikhez khulasas and scandalous clips of kisses and violence? Poonam Saxena examines.

tv Updated: Feb 21, 2009 00:39 IST
Poonam Saxena
Poonam Saxena
Hindustan Times

Something strange happened this week. There was a story that was reported in most newspapers: An MBA student apparently made a ‘striptease MMS’ for her boyfriend who then forwarded it to several of her friends and acquaintances, creating a major scandal.

Most viewers (including me) would have thought quite cynically (and not without reason) that this was the perfect story for news channels to flog on primetime. They could pixelate the girl’s face and show the MMS again and again, with appropriately sensationalist reportage (“Aur yeh ladki ki zindagi barbaad ho gayi… uske boyfriend ne us ko badnaam karne ki koshish ki…” etc etc).

But guess what? None of the main news channels (Hindi as well as English) showed the clip. They did not even report the story.

Frankly, this is the best news I’ve heard about the electronic media in a long time.

So have news channels finally grown up? Have they seen the light and realised that there is life beyond sansanikhez khulasas and controversial clips of kisses/ violence/ whatever (which are usually played so often that they become like wallpaper?)

Well, they may not have yet reached the stage where they’re polishing their halos, but it’s a damn good start.

After 26/11, the electronic media got together and agreed on a self-regulatory mechanism.

They have reportedly agreed that whenever there is a controversial clip or statement, all the editors of the channels will get together and take a (hopefully) sensitive, mature decision on the matter.

That’s how news channels decided not to show the MMS clip or report the story. And no one — bar one insignificant channel — has reneged.

Usually, when confronted with criticism about sensationalist coverage, most news channels (all television channels for that matter) place the blame on cutthroat competition and the need to increase ratings.

But if everybody respects a collective decision, they’re all on the same level playing field.

Secondly, apparently, news channels have also decided not to report or show any vandalism that’s being done specifically for the camera (as in the goondas inform the TV channels to arrive at so-and-so place and begin their goondagardi only when the cameras have been switched on).

If this is true, then that’s the next best news I’ve heard in a long time.

I wish entertainment channels would take a leaf out of these attempts at self-regulation and do a bit of soul-searching of their own.

If news channels were guilty of sensationalising and trivialising the news, the entertainment channels are guilty of being thoroughly regressive and backward in their choice of serials. Suffering women, constantly at the receiving end of endless injustice, are the mainstay of most soaps. NDTV Imagine’s two new serials (Jyoti and Dehleez) belong to the same stock.

In Jyoti, poor noble Jyoti slaves away to support her family (how she also manages to have Pantene-type hair and just-right foundation and lipstick I don’t know). But little does she know (sob, sob) that the money she gives her brother for coaching classes is not being used for coaching classes at all. (Instead, he’s busy hanging around playing cards with a bunch of loafers).

Poor noble Jyoti also has a beau who wants her to tell her family about him. She tries but she should know better — her family will never let go of the golden goose. Her suitor will wait and wait for her while she keeps slaving away and slaving away for her family — and we keep wanting to slash our wrists while watching the serial.

I don’t even want to start on what the other serial Dehleez is like. But the family in question seems very short of money though all the women drift around wearing so many necklaces and bangles and earrings they could be mistaken for jewellery shops if they went to any market.

Ah well.

First Published: Feb 21, 2009 00:33 IST