Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Media's Anxiety

Recently when the London police unearthed the plot to blow up some airliners midair, I looked for details in the newspapers and on the TV about the modus operandi of the miscreants. I could find none. Though I was disappointed but at the same time I appreciated the secrecy maintained by the authorities for obvious reasons. I compared the same situation to our country. Had it happened here, our media would have gone overboard not only in finding and revealing the details to the public but would also have accused many officials and politicians before even the enquiry could reveal any thing. They would have jumped to the conclusions built on their own presumptions.

In the recent past it has been seen that whenever any event takes place in the country, the media persons vie with each other, not only to be the first to break the news, but also add their own dimensions to it. They start interviewing various people, some times even the passers by and blow the event out of its proportions. One TV channel has already made a heroine out of a Chandigarh college girl who was just promised by a director of Bombay film industry that he would call her for screen test. The channel has gone ahead to interview the girl's parents and even the grand parents asking them various questions about her future or their piece of advice to her that how she should behave in the film industry, what kind of language or clothes she should choose or avoid and mind you she has yet to clear her screen test (in case she is called by the said director). Though the media, at times, has been instrumental in exposing some serious frauds and crimes but the event is dumped, the moment the news gets stale and does not promise higher TRP.

When some eminent personality is called for a talk show on the TV, the person interviewing is more anxious to show his or her own knowledge about the subject than actually letting the guest speak. One such interviewer behaves like a boxer in the ring who is constantly looking for an opportunity to give a connecting punch to his opponent (ie,. the invitee to the programme) and after knocking him out, gives a sly smile towards the cameras, as if expecting the public to shout "well fought the guest, host is the winner". But in the bargain the viewers gather nothing out of the whole exercise.

Pen, as a strong instrument of the press, has given way to agressive camera. The media teams start shooting the subjects even against the wishes of the latter.They run the clips on their channels repeatedly.

Once a team of a famous TV chanel started fixing their camera tri-pods on the road opposite our building. When I got the report, I rushed out and saw that they were focusing right into the main gate where our security systems were installed. I told the lady reporter politely, who was leading the team, to pack up their equipment immediately as they were not supposed to take any photographs of our building due to security reasons. She spoke to me very arrogantly and started arguing with me. When she could not give me any justification for taking shots of our building, I threatened that their cameras would be confiscated, in case they took any photographs. Hearing this the cameramen immediately folded the tri-pods and the whole team took to their heels.

Most of the times the media persons, who are called to cover some event, take the advantage of the situation and corner some high ranking official and start asking him or her some sensitive or controversial questions which have nothing to do with the main event as such. I remember one such incident when I was posted in Ladakh in 1983. Our unit was celebrating its raising day and the media had been invited to cover the celebrations, consisting of various sports and cultural programmes, in addition to the parades and parties etc. The Corps Commander was the chief guest. The media persons were present in almost all the events and took TV footages of the same. At one occasion some pressmen cornered the Corps Commander and started asking him sensitive questions on deployment of troops etc which was classified information and could not be shared with any civilian. The Corps Commander was trying his best to ward off the pens, lens and mike toting reporters to maintain the required secrecy. When they started prodding him too much he found it difficult to handle them. Finding his superior officer in a tight position, the Divisional Commander of the local formation intervened and called the reporters towards one side. All of them rushed towards him with a hope that he will answer their questions and thus the Corps Commander was spared. He faced the press persons squarely, who had formed a semi circle in front of him, and said in very soft voice " Ladies and gentlemen, just drink your beer and eat your cashews and buzz off from here as soon as you can". The crest fallen reporters instantly dispersed and no more awkward questions were asked after that, but at the same time the media completely blacked out the coverage of the raising day. The Divisional Commander was non other than General SF Rodrigues went on to become the Chief of the Army Staff later.


Indyeah said...

" Ladies and gentlemen, just drink your beer and eat your cashews and buzz off from here as soon as you can". lol at this!

Trust Army humour!

But this is what happens!One either has to pander to them or afford getting ignored.
While the forces can afford not to bother,giving a damn for the media.

The others, politicians,celebrities are media hungry to say the least!
that is Why this mad scramle upon seeng a camera.

Balvinder Singh said...

This Div Commander was General Rodrigues who was known for brisk words. And one would have seen the faces of the media persons after hearing General's words.

Abhilasha, thanks for coming this far. In fact my earlier posts are not read by many of my present blogger friends so i have put them under lebels.

DG said...

very nice post... good read... :) :)

Balvinder Singh said...

Thanks DG