Watching news being abused

Watching news being abused

telly talk

Watching news being abused

‘Not again!’ I feel like banging my head against the wall in frustration! I thought I’d laid that ghost to rest nearly two years ago! “I have made it clear to you about 50 times that nothing of the sort is going to happen,” I say, curbing my irritation. “Where did this come from after all this time?”

“My yoga teacher was saying that it is going to happen.…” Of course! And any teacher figure –  even a half-baked teenager teaching yoga to the colony kids in the evening has to know more than mom! “It’s only two years away,” worries my daughter.  “I’ll barely be 12 years old!’

I remember the spate of news channel ‘coverage’ predicting the imminent end of planet earth in 2012, that had spread a wave of panic through certain gullible sections of the populace. The kids at home and the maids had talked of nothing else over the next few weeks, after which newer topics had arisen to claim their respective interests. However, it seemed now that the ‘end of the world’ nonsense hadn’t completely died out.
One would think news channels would be a little more circumspect about their programming, given the power they seem to wield over vulnerable minds. The contrast between homegrown channels (Zee News, Aaj Tak, India TV, Star News ...) and international ones (CNBC, IBN7,

BBC …) is painfully evident in this context.
And it’s not only about influencing gullible minds; it’s also about the kind of ‘coverage’ the viewers are subjected to. Remember the two-minute coverage that news channels managed to grab, first of the rumoured Abhi-Ash ‘marriage’, and then of their actual wedding a few months later?  Then there was the Preity Zinta-Ness Wadia ‘break-up’ — what is the point of concocting ‘programs’ based on pure conjecture when the principals in the ‘story’ refuse to comment, and then repeatedly inflicting the semi-fairy tale upon the poor viewers?

Perhaps even more objectionable than the sensationalisation of scant or non-existent ‘news items’ is the standard fall-back of ‘astrologically oriented programs’. When nothing else works, a panel of ‘pop-astrologers’ (complete with contact numbers and addresses, and having paid fabulous sums to the channels) attempts to scare the living daylights out of viewers with ‘This is bad news for rashis. The following is the list of astro-remedies to be followed… 500 grams of coal,  four kilograms of urad beans and a 700 gram block of lead to be deposited into the nearest river or canal….’. Result? Countless superstitious people rushing to pollute the said rivers and canals!

As a modest exponent of the occult sciences myself, I am far from denying the beneficial or baleful effects of planetary movements, but this kind of mass marketing of an ancient and venerable science, with sweeping predictions and generalised remedies is (or should be) abhorrent to any thinking person.

Preying as these programs do, on the deepest fears and insecurities of the human mind, it is appalling to see even people from educated families succumbing to the psychological blackmail thus perpetuated, rushing to have prayers performed at exorbitant prices, and then, when the first round doesn’t work, going to other ‘practitioners’, throwing good money after bad and digging themselves deeper and deeper into the morass of blind superstition.

The list is endless — what is called the ‘silly season’ phenomenon on Fleet Street seems to have descended to ‘ridiculous’ on Indian television. I mean, why not go in for some good quiz or general knowledge programming instead of feeding people’s appetite for the sensational and the inane? Aren’t news channels supposed to be ‘opinion makers’? However, given the kind of  ‘news’ they are propagating, the masses are much better off watching saas-bahu sagas and mythology-based serials.