Noise Hour Debates!

How many of you feel a sense of bitterness like me when you switch on your TV and start watching any of the News channels? How many of you also feel a sense of Deja Vu when you flip channels to find the same type of ludicrous debates? How many of you also have stopped watching Prime Time News like me?

I have been a self-avowed News junkie since childhood. Following the news and current affairs and keeping abreast of what is happening around me has been more than a habit. In this journey, I have witnessed how we have been consuming news – Newspapers, Radio, TV, Satellite channels, social media and now Digital media. In this transition, if the move to TV was significant, I would say that the most exciting phase was when private channels were at their peak, delivering high-quality News and reports to us in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Since then, we have seen the deterioration in standards and quality of TV News broadcasting which I have written about in some of my earlier posts as well. Yet, I continued to hang on, keenly watching prime-time news on TV almost every night. The pointless debates, the shouting matches and the angry anchors spitting venom day in and day out were still tolerated.

Not anymore. These days when you go into a news channel on TV, you will find the party spokesperson arguing at the top of his or her voice. And if that is not enough, you will have multiple people screaming at each other at the same time mostly indulging in well-prepared whataboutery. What is the need for the spokespersons to get provoked and feel that only if they shout, they will be heard or they will make sense? In the past, only the anchors use to shout at the top of their voices and try to interrupt the guests continuously. These days, the guests who usually represent the political parties and a few who are so-called experts/commentators are the ones who yell at the anchor and the other side speakers.

There was a time when political parties boasted of fine spokespersons who use to come to TV news shows and put forth their points with eloquence and poise. Even when the anchor was at his or her provoking best, they used to keep their cool and put across their points without raising their voice. These days the aspects of poise and dignity are in short supply among the spokespersons. This is cutting across all major parties and in particular the ruling BJP. Their spokespersons, I find are always in a mood of outrage and anger. Even when the news under discussion is positive for the party, you will these spokespersons still seething in anger on TV. This is baffling, to say the least. For a party that has got one of the most popular leaders in the world as its Prime Minister, with more than half the country reposing its faith in him at the hustings and with a lot of things going for the government in terms of achievements, the conduct of its spokespersons on TV shows is disappointing, to say the least.

When it was in opposition, the spokespersons of the BJP – some of whom are ministers now, were a different breed. They used to articulate the party’s stand with grace. Spokespersons of other parties are not different either. Their understanding of putting the ruling party on the mat is to come on TV and try to outshout others. Even if the conduct of the party spokespersons is understandable, what is not, is the same shouting tendencies of the “so-called” neutral experts and guests. Even they come on TV and start shouting the moment they get a chance. In this aspect, I also see a lot of gender equality, in the sense, both male and female guests are equally loud and hysterical. I worry for the health (mental and physical) health of those who participate in TV news shows and every day subject themselves to hypertension.

These days, therefore I hardly watch Prime Time News programmes on any channel. In fact, I switch on to news channels only for some “big live events” where of course we are spared of the shouting matches of the participants. For an avid News watcher, options from digital channels have come in handy.  I find some of the programmes in digital YouTube channels far better in terms of content and quality of presentation and more importantly, sparing our eardrums and peace of mind. Frankly speaking, the high anger and noise levels on Prime Time News shows are accelerating the shift of news consumers to Digital Media!

Shekhar Gupta’s The Print is one go-to channel for me for getting into details behind a lot of headlines. Bottomline with Barkha is a program in the Mojo Story channel which I try not to miss. Though the format here is akin to a TV channel debate, so far at least I find the participants who are from parties, putting forth their points calmly without too much heckling. One of the best is the weekend Netanagri show on The Lallantop channel which is akin to long-form journalism in print media. The program is usually anchored well by its editor Saurabh Dwivedi and his team, where the participants who are usually journalists from different parts of the country and domain experts unravel for us the important issues from that week. As I write this, the show has crossed 200 episodes this week! The best part is you can just hear these shows as you do your walking or while on the treadmill or when washing utensils!

I wonder if you are also among those who have of late shunned the TV News bandwagon for the good. If yes, it is bad news for the TV News broadcasting industry which must look inwards to their programming content and style. Prime Time News Hour cannot be Noise Hour!

0 thoughts on “Noise Hour Debates!”

  1. Very well and aptly put forward thoughts. Being a current affairs follower, you views resonated wonderfully well with many like me.
    I have a slightly different take on the prime time noise. To me, in most cases they are very well orchestrated (avoiding a direct reference – fixed 😊), not necessarily for monetary considerations in every program. But to attract viewers (in a highly competitive market) channels do all these noisy drama deliberately. Other wise why would some people keep appearing in these programs despite at the receiving end of anchors and other panelists in an unfairly manner?

  2. As always your lucid portrayal summarizes the current scenario pretty much. Fortunately I’ve been hooked to Newspapers all along and take a cue on good channels from your post. I also feel it’s the popularity that makes these News channels borrow a page or two from successful Soaps. Which in turn speaks of what people expect! Which also raises a question about viewers & their expectations.

  3. Correct observation. I believe the entire narrative of the conversation and the participants’ individual points of view have been lost in the contrived cacophony created to sensationalize the topic for TRP ratings. Also worthy of remark is “Breaking News,” which continues to break for hours and hours until a new “Breaking News” flashes.
    As always, Bang on target; a note worth reading..

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