Cyclone Biparjoy did not make landfall in Gujarat last week. If you thought so, you were wrong. The very severe cyclonic storm in fact first hit Noida’s Film City and surrounding areas.
If you have been away from the Indian idiot box for the last few days for some reason, you missed a spectacle. When the cyclone made landfall in Film City (where most of the news channels are based), some of the anchors were seen shaking and speaking in trembling voice live on national television. Some even had umbrellas in their hand to protect themselves from the rain. Running in the background were scary visuals from a cyclonic storm that occurred thousands of miles away in the US. Wonder how these anchors managed to hold on to their umbrellas amid gale wind speed of nearly 150 kilometre per hour inside their studios!
Soon, these anchors were onboard helicopters inside the news studios, giving us a bird’s eye view of the havoc the storm was causing. We were literally transported to the ground zero from our drawing rooms and office cubicles!
But who should have been near ground zero and were in fact not, were these anchors and their channels. They instead chose to create ground zero right inside their studios!
When the focus should have been on creating awareness and restoring calm among those living in the path of the cyclone and on covering various aspects of the impending disaster, they chose to indulge in histrionics and theatrics! And the casualty of this melodrama was the seriousness of the disaster itself!
Not the first time
Indian news television is fast becoming a comedy show! Investigative and ground reporting is on the decline and studio tigers are on the rise. So is the virtualisation of news. Social media has replaced reporters as a source of news gathering, mobile phones have replaced cameras. And what has taken over are graphics and virtual studios! Did we miss talking about India’s first AI anchor?
More intense battles are fought in Indian news studios than on the Russia-Ukraine battlefield. In fact, rappers and dancers are sent by Indian news channels to report from the ‘ground zero’ of war. And what should we say about serious budget discussion happening hundreds of feet above the ground while suspended in air (read hanging restaurant). We have seen it all on Indian television!
Media (or press) was meant to be the fourth pillar of Indian democracy. It was meant to investigate and help shape public opinion. The idea was never to turn it into a circus and lose credibility. What it is actually turning out to be instead is a comedy show that is becoming crass by the day! And we really do not know when it will end. And this is what the nation really wants to know!