Saturday, August 26, 2006

Balanced View

Fact #1: A man kills his wife

Fact #2: He kills her after they go to watch a film together

Fact #3: The film they watch is Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna

Fact #3: A similar case happens in another part of the country

Conclusion: Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna is pushing people to commit heinous crimes.

You must be thinking I'm crazy. Not at all! I'm only trying to tell you what a few so-called news channels would have us believe a few days back.

Now consider some other facts:

Fact: In the first case, the couple had been living separately. The husband called his wife under the pretext of a reconciliation with an offer to watch Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. They didn't even get to the theatre - the husband killed the wife before that

Fact: In the second case, the murder was pre-meditated, with every move carefully planned. The choice of movie was only incidental.

Why did these channels jump to conclusions without even bothering to get the facts right? Because it ensured that they got the eyeballs they wanted. Despite all the mixed reviews KANK is getting, it is without doubt the most talked about film in recent memory. What better way to get eyeballs than to create a 'controversial' story about the film.

I'm completely disappointed with the quality of programming of the 24 hour news channels. Not that I like the other channels. But if those channels show saas-bahu sagas ad nauseum and show little innovation in their programming, they also never pretend to do anything else. But here we're talking of news channels. They're meant to inform, to educate, to shape opinions. Is this the way they're supposed to achieve that? Forget information, it's gross misinformation and de-education they're propagating.

Take the example of a 'story' i caught last night about the 'miracles' happening these days - from sea water turning sweet to idols drinking milk all over again. Maybe I'm too stupid to have understood the story, but as I saw it, the channel was only trying the highlight the miracles, with little or no effort to present the scientific explanations behind that. OK, let me correct myself here. The commentator did mention about these scientific explanations in the passing, but the words and the tone he used were clearly dismissive, almost amounting to saying that these scientists have no business countering the people's 'faith'.

I'm myself superstitious about certain things, and have nothing against superstitions and matters of faith. But news channels have no business propagating superstitions, they better leave them to the Aastha and Sanskar channels. I expect news channels to provide a balanced view of events, even if the event is as unbelievable as these 'miracles' or, as I'm reminded now, an instance of rebirth. A few months back one news channel carried a major report of a an incident of a rebirth of a child. While interviewing the mothers of the children, the channel used captions the said "XYZ's new mother" or "XYZ's old mother". What do you say about that?

An excuse that I hear often these days is that in the days of 24x7 programming, how can news channels get real news to report? Crap! Aren't BBC and CNN 24 hour channels? Or, how does the fact that 24 hour news channels have little else to report preclude them from reporting actual facts and giving a balanced view?