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TV media blind to world affairs

August 23, 2013

By Anuradha M Chenoy

An ordinary viewer of the electronic media, who is not inclined to read the print media in some detail, is likely to get a completely skewed version of the Indian foreign policy and even risk semi-literacy on world affairs.

The reason is not difficult to fathom. Most Indian TV news channels are obsessed primarily with three issues: India’s disputes with Pakistan, conflict and competition with China, and strategic relations with the USA. An exception is made when some huge humanitarian disaster which is briefly mentioned in the news, or if some Indian is wronged by a foreign government an emotional response follows. So if you are primarily a TV watcher — and luckily most newspaper readers are not — your knowledge of both Indian foreign policy and international politics will end there.

Let us take the recent examples of major international events that are being discussed by leaders, analysts and people world over, like the civil conflict in Syria, the military coup and the killing of Islamic followers of deposed president Morsi in Egypt; the latest on the Palestine question, or what happened after the Arab spring, etc. There has hardly been any discussion or debate on the Indian TV channels. Or if a major presidential election happened in an African country; or the South African government fired on mine workers last year, you will never know, if you watch most TV channels. Indian electronic media go on with the same commentators on the latest scam or take up any issue of the day and make it the top headline news and debate. This is not to make the argument that domestic news is not important but surely if a channel is in the business of information, it should be sensitive to international news as well.

But there is something even more dangerous that many TV channels have been doing here. That is to raise the pitch of war rhetoric and seek to mobilise public opinion in favour of aggressive confrontation. To cite just a recent example was the killing of five Indian soldiers by the Pakistani Army and irregulars. Such incidents are vile, and need to be reported and a reasoned debate following up that analyses the government position, deconstructs what the opposition has to say; brings out historical facts, analyses documents and so on. Many editorials and articles in the print media did this kind of reasoned analysis.

The electronic media, however, followed the furore that was raised in the parliament. No MP on that day raised deeper historical questions that in fact The Indian Express reported on August 7 that just a few days before this incident Indian soldiers had captured four Pakistani infiltrators near the border. No MP or TV channel asked that earlier classified reports on such ceasefire violations be made public and discussed. The electronic media in India raised  war rhetoric at a high pitch. Commentators generally supported strong retaliatory action screamed at those who advocated “soft” response. Anchors urged the need for quick retaliation to save the “honour” and “pride” of every Indian. Zee News was scripted as: “Pakistan ko do karara jawab” (Give Pakistan a fitting response). Some held TV polls that claimed that 99 per cent of the viewers who had given responses supported retaliation. Times Now titled its nightly debate as: “Pakistan Butchers/We Cowards”. India TV’s ticker ran: “Pakistan Rulata Rahega – Hum Rote Rahenge?” (Pakistan will continue to make us cry and we will keep crying?).

So much of the electronic media tried to put pressure on Indian foreign policy to take a militarist step. Sadly, the electronic media showed itself to be quite the same as the hard-line Pakistani electronic media. Read more in The New Indian Express.

From → Analysis

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