The I&B ministry is planning to set in guidelines for the TV news channels hoping terrorist attacks will be covered with more sensitivity next time around. Does that somehow seem utopian?
Ever since the rise of television from the mid-90s, television news channels have covered everything thrown at them with an aim to cover all the denominators of the pluralistic Indian society. Somewhere, it got aspirational and so stories on village rapes and Dalit feuds got replaced with health shows and size-zero stories.
In recent times, apart from the story of Prince falling in a bore well, there has been no attempt to understand why news channels have leapfrogged to classism than consumerism, considering that a vast majority of Indians belong to the masses, not classes. This could be because the terror attack in Mumbai was aimed at the classes, what with foreign nationals and two of Mumbai’s biggest hotels under attack.
This meant that news channels instinctively picked up that they could target the upper class with relentless coverage and keep the masses involved by showing the destruction of an aspirational society with its utter helplessness and great-leveller style of talking to the audience.
This means, while English news channels went all out and actually created the rage against the system (and jingoism, by way of Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab) seen across the world today, Hindi news channels showed how the attack made even the motley group of rich people in the country as vulnerable to an attack as any of them.
Forming any guidelines has to walk the tightrope of ensuring that democratic rights of the fourth estate are not trampled upon even as the rules should ensure that news channels do not give out sensitive information to aid terrorists and broadcast insensitive videos of traumatized and brutalized victims.
The guidelines should also have enough bite to ensure proper coverage along the lines of BBC (especially in the immediate aftermath of the 7/7 attacks) as well as pass muster amongst democrat hawks to ensure that it doesn’t make an error such as the Broadcasting Bill. Ideally, the Press Council should call up errant channels and hand out guidelines and submit a copy to the I&B ministry. But of course, our ministers like to put their hands where they are never required than put it to work in the way it should work.
In this age of glocalization, everyone’s eyes will be on what the guidelines will be, which of course will be broadcast from our TV networks.