Monday, June 22, 2015

1 Year Interviews: TV Media fails again!

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference. 

Much has been written about the 365 days of Modi sarkar. This is the most analysed (or over analysed) 1 year for any government that led India in the past. I was following a few interviews on TV, and read a few interviews in print. These interviews were given by the Prime Minister, senior Cabinet ministers and senior MoS (holding independent charges).
These TV interviews once again exposed the hollow nature of discourse these people impose upon the viewers.
Aaj Tak / India Today
Rajdeep Sardesai was interviewing Ananth Kumar, the minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers of our country. More than half of the interview is *not* related to Ananth Kumar’s ministry at all! For the few minutes that Ananth Kumar is explaining about what his ministry is doing, Rajdeep cuts him short and demands a yes-no answer, reducing the interview to trivialities.
For example, Ananth Kumar was explaining about how the government has bought in neem-coated urea to avoid pilferation of the subsidised Urea. Out of nowhere, Rajdeep brings in the “suit-boot ki sarkar” jibe of Rahul Gandhi into the picture and seeks a yes-no answer from the minister. At another instance, Rajdeep wants an assurance from the minister that the Urea prices will never be increased in the next 4 years. The minister assures him, but Rajdeep says not enough! Rajdeep repeats the suit-boot ki sarkar jibe more than the sum of all Congress spokespersons put together!
Prasoon Bajpai interviews Ravi Shankar Prasad and for half the time focuses on issues outside of the Communication Ministry. Note the arrogance of Bajpai when he says the Insurance schemes announced are of no use, because they benefit people only after their death! No questions on the shortfalls in Digital India, what the expansion plans of Digital India are or anything that is of consequence from the Communication Ministry!
Rajdeep Sardesai interviews Smriti Irani – goes with zero preparation and gets reverse-bombarded with facts that reveal his ignorance. This 25 minute interview reveals all that is bad with TV journalism today. This zero respect towards facts is what defines TV journalism today. This interview has been widely discussed and dissected, so will not probe any further into it.
Ashok Singhal and Anjana Om Kashyap get to interview Smriti Irani. One of the irate audience questions Aaj Tak as to why questions related to her ministry are not being posed to her. The anchor gets angry and tells the audience that this is not *their* interview. Ashok Singhal passes a sexist comment – the entire media fraternity goes silent. The entire Left-Lib gang goes silent. The silence is so deafening that it exposed the true nature of this ilk.
The only interview that came close to focusing on one ministry is this interview of Karan Thapar with Prakash Javadekar – 16 minutes for Environment; 8 minutes for the same generic issues that have been beaten to death!
Minister for Environment, Prakash Javdekar is invited to a townhall. 5 journalists are enlisted to question him. For a very long time, none of them even talk to him about the environment. All 5 of them are either busy arguing amongst themselves, or bringing up topics like the governments communication strategy and foreign trips of the PM! It took a non-journalist to ask an environment related question to the Environment Minister of the country!
Nitin Gadkari is the ministry of Road Transport, Shipping and Highways. In a 55 minute townhall interaction, he is asked a question related to Transport sector at the 50th minute! The initial part has discussion on Land Bill (which has bearing on his ministry). Most of the other part is loaded with questions that are not in anyway related to Mr. Gadkari’s ministry! No questions on Shipping; No questions on Highways; No questions on the National Waterway bills.
Contrast that to this interview of Gadkari on ABP news – quite some focus on matters related to his ministry and allegations against him (of course the mandatory Rahul Gandhi question had to be thrown in here too).
Nirmala Seetharaman is the ministry of Commerce and Industry. The same questions on foreign trips, Land Bill are repeated here too – with a very few questions thrown around about the commerce ministry as a whole.
A common thread to these townhalls were the repetitive questions – despite each and every minister clarifying the exact same question multiple times. Take for example the Land Acquisition Bill – same question – what about the perception that this is anti-farmer. Not a single farmer on the show – but somehow we are to believe majority of the farmers are against this bill. The ministers clarify, point by point. Yet, this is again repeated in the next show. If more journalists join, the more merrier the questioning becomes! Repeated questions on the Prime Minister’s foreign trips and his utterances. Why can’t these folks move on, once answers have been given. What is the point in repeating the questions again and again and again?
Contrast these to some of the very detailed print interviews of the Prime Minister himself (123 and 4) ; of Nitin Gadkari (12. Also this ABP news interview is decent); of Piyush Goyalpress conference of Sushma Swaraj; TV shows simply wasted their energy – and even after getting repeated clarifications, they will still continue to ask the same question in future interviews too! Like I have been saying for a very long time, we the viewers deserve better.


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