News or Nonsense?

After a long and strenuous day, when I returned home and switched the television on for my daily dose of news, I happened to tune in to the channel famous for broadcasting worthless, superstitious stuff, which according to them is ‘News’. As most of you have already guessed, that channel could be none other than ‘India TV’.

The ‘Special’ program being aired was called “Tantra aur sach ki Jung” (Black Magic vs. Rationalism) A tantrik (black magician) claimed to be able to kill any person he wanted, within fifteen minutes using black magic. Sanal Edamaruku, the president of Rationalist International, challenged the tantrik to prove his powers. He picked up a small voodoo doll made of wheat flour dough, which looked like a human being, and tied a thread around it, chanting some mantras (magic words). The sequence went on for more than an hour, and the tantrik continued performing weird rituals. Asserting that he will make him suffer without being physical, he went against his own statement by pressing on the temple of Sanal’s head, pressing his palm and sprinkling water on him. After failing thrice in his attempts, he chose to kill Sanal with the ‘ultimate destruction ceremony’. The funniest thing about the whole program was the tantrik did not bring the show to an end, thinking that eventually ‘something’ might just happen.

It was dreadful to see such a ludicrous thing being aired on a News Channel. Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru had once said: “I would rather have a completely free press, with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of the freedom, than suppress or regulate Press”. Since then, under the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression (guaranteed by the Constitution of India) media has been given the authority to impart information to the masses, subject to certain limitations.

But the unethical and filthy stuff being broadcasted on the present day News Channels is a shame to the democracy, and the country. The ‘special programs’ being televised on these channels are mostly of semi-clad women shaking a leg, or episodes of some Laughter Challenge show. India TV, in particular, has crossed all limits. Instead of showing real news, which is concerned with the life of aam aadmi (common man), this channel, headed by Rajat Sharma, usually telecasts programs related to the supernatural, like some unscrupulous babas giving a 40 minute talk on what to do when a cat crosses your path, or how the angry Gods are going to cause destruction to this Earth. The ‘Breaking News’ consists of a person being transformed into a tree, and shows a man, all wrapped up in leaves, walking on the busy streets of a country’s road. Another one was about a kidnapper alien, who, according to them, comes outside your home, rings the doorbell at 2 AM sharp, and abducts the one who opens the door! The video clip being shown seemed to be stolen from the movie ‘Aliens’. What puzzles me the most is the fact that in a nation where almost 100 news channels are accessible, such absurd stories are chosen exclusively by this particular channel, and no other channel broadcasts what they show!

Most of us may be convinced about India TV having a ‘nose for nonsense’, but the disappointing part is, the TRPs of this so-called News Channel are undoubtedly rising up. The program called ‘Alert Viewer’, one of the most disgusting TV shows I have ever seen, in which they encourage the viewers to do media coverage on topics related to anti-social elements, and the correspondent is rewarded with a color television, or diamond jewelry gift vouchers! The ‘best’ videos include how stray animals often roam around at the Lucknow railway platform, or showing passengers climbing on the roof of the train which is a risk of their lives, or a baby crawling out of the gate of his home. For the sake of publicity, and to attract advertisers, they are ready to go to any extent, including provoking the youth to perform dangerous and unethical actions.

Isn’t it humiliating for all of us to tolerate such disgrace being brought to our country and the media? The dishonest tantriks and babas continue to play with the religious sentiments of the ignorant section of the society, but we, the educated class, being aware of their fraudulent practices couldn’t care less and laugh off the news wholeheartedly. How many of us actually question ourselves “Is this the kind of media we need in today’s world”? How many of us bother to criticize and challenge the accuracy of such news? It is depressing to see rationalism and credibility being displaced by the TRP factor, and our countrymen losing their voice, silently grasping all the made up stuff being shown to them.

Kanika Bedi

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