Sunday, March 10, 2013
The number of News channels in Malayalam is rapidly increasing. Earlier there were only a couple of channels and now the number has swelled to six and new channels are waiting. Kerala has highest literacy rate, however majority of people like the local political news. The local news means the press conference of Ministers, war of words between leaders, the analysis on those News etc.
Any way the channels take care not to have a dull moment for the audience lest they should click away from the channel. One of the pet popular topic that occasionally come for long discussions and lengthy reporting is the Achutanandan vs Pinarayi Vijayan issues and there will be always one thing or other between them to make the channels busy. If there are none to report the channels will create one by interviewing one of them.
Recently, a new-born channel which was eager to make its presence felt interviewed Sri V S Achutanandan and fortunately for the channel he was in an exuberant mood and told the channel things that a disciplined party comrade would not have chosen to speak out. The News made quite a stir among the political circles and other party channels too were compelled to report the interview. Generally channels dislike quoting another channel in order not to give a thankless publicity to the rival channel. To cut a long story short in no time the new-born channel grew big and is now one of the foremost channels to look for fresh news.
The child abuse is also a preferred subject for the channels and Kerala has no dearth of abuse cases as in other parts of India. Since such cases are reported daily they are fast losing their News value. But the story gets interesting if a prominent person is involved in it.
The channels recently got a windfall when the infamous Suryanelli case was taken up by the Supreme Court and directed the Kerala High Court to review its earlier judgement in which all accused barring a couple of persons were acquitted. There are about 40 people accused in the case
( The Suryanelli case is one of the most tragic and horrible instances of child abuse in India. A 16 year-old girl was drugged and presented to various individuals in Kerala and Tamil Nadu for 40 days and by the time the ordeal ended she was moribund and one foot in the grave. Thank God she survived and is now leading a normal life with a job in the Government service)
Once the Suryanelli case reopened the channels caught on it. The case had undergone extensive analysis and reporting previously and had nothing left in it of news value. The accused persons are all commoners whose punishment or acquittal mattered nothing for general public. Despite those factors channels went after it because the name of Sri. P.J.Kurien, deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, had somehow got entangled with this case. He is not one of the accused in the case and on enquiry no evidence of his involvement could be proved. Yet the channels ( and also Newspapers) decided to dig further considering its immense news value.
At times the channels and Newspapers are like predators, thinking only about filling the stomach and unmindful of the pain and anguish of their prey.
A channel went to a retired Judge who was one of the two judges pronounced judgement in the High Court. The Judge said it was not possible to make comments on the judgement out of court. But the channel was not to back track from it.
The mood of the channel at that time was somewhat adventurous as it was just after the infant channel mentioned earlier got in the limelight out of its interview. So in reckless abandon channel took video of Judge’s off camera comments via hidden camera and beamed them on the channel. The comments of the Judge created quite a stir. The unethical practice of reporting off-record comments and that too with a hidden Camera was later criticized in an editorial by a Malayalam daily. Though the channel owned by that Malayalam daily beamed hidden camera news two days later to reveal a bribery case.
( The hidden camera News gathering is rampant in western countries among the Tabloid Newspapers but few and far between in India. The S P J( Society of professional Journalists) code says: “Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, interpreting and reporting the information. Journalists should avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story".
Taking bribe is a pet subject of hidden camera operators. However there is something unethical in the operation like theft, the theft of privacy)
Further on the Suryanelli case, the baby channel which created a stir with a single interview also tried its luck in the case. It went at length to interview an absconding prime accused, named Dharmarajan via phone to inquire whether P.J Kurien was involved. His reply had no legal standing as he is an accused and as such the interview yielded little as far as sensationalism is concerned. God knows how the channel found his hiding place, the Police was searching for him for years. However it helped the Police to catch him in a couple of days with the help of the channel.
With more News channels coming on the scene, there will be a real Darwinian struggle for existence and many a corrupt officers would be brought to light with concealed cams.