Indian “news channels” should now carry a mandatory health warning: ‘Watching this content is injurious to you and the participants’ health’.
The “normal” content of these channels is usually bigotry, majoritarianism, sensationalism (a pretend autopsy was carried out on the late Sushant Singh Rajput), shouty fake debates with the “anchor” hectoring his “panel” and uncritical Narendra Modi worship.
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If this hate mongering content were not bad enough, a Congress party spokesperson Rajiv Tyagi suffered a heart attack minutes after he was called a “traitor” by BJP party spokesman Sambit Patra last week in a “show”. His broken young wife sobbed post the funeral and said Tyagi’s last words were: “In logo nei mujhey maar diya” (these people have killed me). Tragically, Tyagi’s final debate was on a show that calls itself “Dangal,” which when literally translated means a wrestling match.
As a print and broadcast journalist with over two decades of experience, I can only say any media organisation which claims that a wrestling match is remotely akin to journalism is making an epic fool of the viewer.
These alleged “news channels” have a broken business model where they pass off shouting as “news” and garbage as content. One Hindi channel not so long ago used to claim that gods would be coming to blows. Another has the dubious distinction of having an editor and chief executive officer who went to jail for alleged extortion.
Both these “editors” were honoured guests at the Government of India banquet held by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for visiting United States President Donald Trump.
The reason I share this with you, faithful reader of SWAT analysis, is that this is the real nexus. All these channels amply funded and licensed by the Government of India exist as propaganda weapons for the government.
The hate they peddle and spin as news is weaponised on the what’s app groups run by the ruling BJP. Guileless viewers, who still believe they are consumers of “news,” are in reality, victims of fake news and propaganda.
Before every election, the channels run ridiculous debates where they rant about “anti-nationals”. No real journalist would spin pure hate the way they do. Hours are devoted to lies about an actor’s death, masjid versus mandir and attacking the Opposition.
The government is never asked any questions. One female anchor actually laughed along with BJP leader Ram Madhav and echoed him as he said on air: “We have Amit Shah” about toppling an Opposition government. The same senior journalist actually went public after the death of Arun Jaitley, BJP leader, saying: “Who will I talk to every morning?” in her tribute to Jaitley. Incidentally, Jaitley was called “Bureau Chief” by the media in a tribute to his media management.
Another female editor, who runs a partisan wire service, incredibly said on television: “Operation Kamal was not successful in Rajasthan this time. But, at no point in time one should assume the party would give up.” “Operation Kamal” is the benign name that the uncritical media has given the BJP’s attempts at toppling democratically elected state governments. The “editor” is unabashed about her allegiance to the BJP and the joke of a wire service is given hugely lucrative contracts by the government.
In Modi’s second term, things have come to such a pass that his office decides the “run order” (how news bulletins are shown) of some Panna Pramukh channels. The editor sends the news list and gets approval.
These are criminal acts of subversion by the media, possibly worse than what they did during Indira Gandhi’s emergency. At that time LK Advani, founder BJP president, had memorably said: “The media was asked to bend, it crawled.” Now most of the Indian media is prostrate at Modi’s feet.
The imploding economy, the wonky implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, the Chinese aggression and occupation of India’s territory, the migrant workers reduced to starvation, the alarming spread of the pandemic COVID-19 and the lackadaisical government response - none of this is reported or debated by the news channels.
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So what is “news” for them?
The endless glory of Modi in Ayodhya for the brick laying ceremony of the Ram mandir. The channels went to town reporting that Modi had been in office now longer than any non-Congress prime minister. They forgot to mention that he is the longest serving prime minister of India, who has refused to address a press conference during both his terms.
That’s not “news”.
Cigarettes are injurious to your health, but Indian news channels practically kill and dismantle minds.