Greater role for visual media?

Have you noticed? Surely you must have noticed that pan India, the visual media organisations are all the same? This time it happens to be the Chennai floods! However, the scenario is uniform across all kinds of natural and manmade disasters.

Channel after channel prompt their camera persons to get a 360 degree view of the unfortunate incident. When the viewer flips channels, he or she is likely to find the same news story worded differently, in different languages, or different accents of the same language.

After all, how long can we expect a spokesperson to be creatively interesting in a scene of obvious tragedy? The comments on the visuals which begin with great gusto become redundant. The desperate attempt to rope in local opinions sometimes land flat on the face and at other times, technical lapses make up for the shortcomings of substance.

The army, navy and air force is roped in to help us out of dire straits during hopeless times.  Interestingly, most times no names are put on these benevolent faces or no accolades are heaped on their sincere efforts. They arrive like angels, sort out matters for the civilians and vanish into oblivion noiselessly, till such time they are wanted again.

The good works of the rescue operators ranging from the local Samaritan to self help groups, NGOs to government officials are captured frame after frame and recorded for posterity as history.

The scenes unfolded are also not very different. The political parties, their dominant leaders and the wannabe politicians jostle to hog limelight. They do not miss an opportunity to slander their mortal rivals. At such times one is disposed to think perhaps the visuals would roll out better if the blokes resorted to donkey’s praise. Perhaps, the ugly smog that veils their wily veneer can melt, if only for a while. It might also capture the attention and imagination of a juvenile viewer who may actually see a neta’s contribution during times of crisis.

The next patented feature of these news clippings happens to be the faces in the crowd who make it a point to crowd around the person facing the camera. Despite being deeply despondent about the disaster that has recently descended on them, they cannot hide their excitement about being on television. They eagerly watch the person speaking, mentally formulating their lines, just in case the microphone is stretched out to them. Then there are those a little far behind in the crowd who manage to stand on their toes and wave their placards or their hands, just to show that they also happen to be on the spot.

The news reel is played again and again as exclusive news, part of news and props for the debates and discussions that are based on them. Then of course, they are uploaded on every social network that is worth its salt. The remarks from thereon are sometimes used as launch pads for fresh debates. This process continues with waning tempo till another or greater new story begins to hit the headlines.

Stemming crisis
The idea of laying out these well known facts is to sound off the reader and the media about the validity of this vicious cycle. Don’t you think that the visual media has a greater role? Is it not enough if one or two or may be 10, considering that there are hundreds of channels across India to cover the news and share it with their brethren?

If the team sent by each channel extends a helping hand instead of wielding cameras or microphones or driving vehicles, would they have not contributed to stemming the crisis a wee bit?

If each channel wants to prove its distinctiveness, they could all come together and chart out diverse angles to the storyline and highlight the contributions of real life heroes. Such images can prove to be inspiring and educative and can have a lasting impact on the viewer.

Channels could do follow up stories on the measures taken and the changes wrought in the area of catastrophe to reassure the public that their taxes have been spent well.

Debaters could list out the root cause of the calamity and hand them over to the government. Then the channels can have a jolly good time nagging the local powers that be by flashing the arc lights on their in/actions. The bouquets and brickbats that come their way can prove to be entertaining and enlightening coverage.

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