Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Preliminary Recipe for TV News

I was going through a research published somewhere regarding the impact and viewership of TV in the rural India. It said that more than ninety percent of the population watches TV not for news (forget about views i.e. JANMAT, it must be renamed as SAHMAT where you can see everybody nodding his or her head in the anchor's i.e. Alka ji's consent) but only for entertainment. Ten percent or so who watch TV News prefer Sansani and Dial 100 type melodramatic nuisance and others wait for their chance to be selected in the Indian Idol. Is this the TV News foeticide?

Remember, whenever we talk about electronic media and its impact, we must always draw a dividing line between news (and views together) and non-news. The reason is obvious. You start with the term Electronic media and end up in a mess because you found that you were talking only in terms of news as you are a journalist. This mindset has to be broken because as and when you say that the electronic media in India is in a very immature and nascent stage, you always keep in your mind's core the fate of TV News, not the POGO cartoon and MTV Bakra. This creates a viscious circle and we start indulging in a that discourse about which no one is sure what the fuss is all about.

The fate of Electronic media i.e news media in TV must always be talked about in terms of content, keeping in mind the dialectical relationship between it and the form i.e visuals. If someone is very keen in creating the pressure points for the electronic media; again the same mistake...electronic news media...then the best way to do this is to scan the daily news items and their relationship with the visuals. This can create a perfect balance between what we think and what we speak.

Firstly, to make a corresponding relationship between our thought process and the the spelt words. Don't use Electronic media. Instead use TV News Media or anything of that sort where news comes in. We can't create pressures on the video of Shakira running day and night on MTV but it is possible to make a justifiable balance between the news items and their relationship with the visuals.

The second step in this whole exercise must be to prepare a lexicon or say style sheet which we can usually find in a good newspaper's office. Lexicon must contain the strict rules and regulations categorically of how to select and use a visual according to the story on the run. All types of news must be dealt with in this manual. As and when it needs to be amended, it must be. This can be done in the first phase through the critical analysis of responses to a questionnaire which can be send to the respective news channel heads and chief functionaries.

When you get the lexicon in place, it must be shared with the Press Council of India or the analogous governmental regulatory body like Information and Broadcasting Ministry. Pressure must be build up through the journalist unions to strictly impose this kind of thing on the news channels. Let the government think on the proposal so as to take out any ordinance of this type or anything of this sort.

Virtually talking about the media musings is not going to pay anything, as I have stressed time and again. We will have to enter the physical realities and fight for the people's demands. Otherwise, the ten percent will get down to two percent or so and the media persons will just get amused by watching their PTC's on the screen. Then no one will be left to watch them leaving themselves only. Why to dig our own graves knowing that people don't want information only, they need correct information. And for that, conscious media persons need to assert themselves. Blogging is good, but watch that it doesn't turn into begging.

Abhishek Srivastava

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