By Sandeep Sahu
The world, it would seem, exists solely for the benefit of the television crews of news channels. They can barge into any place, public or private; thrust the ubiquitous boom into anybody’s face and demand an answer to their frequently inane questions. Any attempt to say a polite ‘No’ is met with arrogance, abuse and worse from the reporter and/or the cameraperson, which can drive someone to tears as it did Deepika Kumari, the ace archer from Jharkhand fresh from her World Cup triumph in Poland, on Tuesday.
What was supposed to be a ‘felicitation’ of the three-member women’s recurve archers’ team at Archery Association of India (AAI) chief VK Malhotra’s place turned out to be a nightmare for the hapless girls as the assorted television reporters and camera persons pestered them for that ‘exclusive’ interview, which they have come to expect as a matter of ‘right’. The unquestionable star in the team, World No 2 Deepika had a particularly harrowing time accommodating the requests for back-to-back interviews from dozens of camera crews. She attempted to reason with them that she was jet lagged, did not have a wink for 24 hours, had not eaten anything since morning and had a flight to catch. But all her pleas fell on deaf ears as the reporters/camera persons accused her of ‘arrogance’ and told her that she should, in fact, be ‘grateful’ to them for the coverage. That’s when the 18-year old could not take it anymore and broke down, in full view of the cameras which lost no time in capturing the ‘exclusive’ moment of a sports person in tears, not out of ecstasy at winning a major event or disappointment at losing out on one, but because a bunch of heartless and arrogant television personnel would not take ‘no’ for an answer – not even a polite one.
The next day, a television crew gate crashed into an aeroplane demanding answers from Asaram Bapu, currently in the eye of a storm over allegations of raping a minor. When the self styled god man’s supporters tried to prevent them from doing so, the reporter actually threatened them with ‘dire consequences’ if they tried it again. And wonder of wonders, the threat was not edited out of the story that was aired.
There is no question that the man should have been behind the bars by now. But does that mean television can hound somebody like that? A question that immediately came to my mind after watching the slugfest inside the aircraft was: how did the airport personnel allow the camera crew inside the plane in the first place? Would they extend such a favour to anybody else? Such is the awe of the television media that even senior people in responsible positions develop cold feet when dealing with it.
A major reason for the arrogance of the television crews is the indulgence of the politicians, who go out of the way to accommodate their requests. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh felt obliged, if you remember, to ask the crew “Theek Hai?” after the recording of an address to the nation on Doordarshan cameras recently. With the high and mighty bowing to the dictates of the television crew, can mere mortals muster the audacity of saying no?
No matter how important the politician is, the camera person would deal with him/her like the barber used to deal with his client in the good old days. “Look here, Sir.” “Can you please change your shirt?” “Will you please switch off your mobile, please?” The camera person would go on and on demanding things from the politician that would be considered blasphemy if others did it and the politician would oblige him/her meekly without so much as a whimper.
During a recent television interview for an international news channel, a top minister of the Naveen Patnaik government not only kept hordes of people waiting outside, but also endured the switching off of the fans and the air conditioner in the extreme August humidity – sweating profusely all the while – for a full 45 minutes as the crew went about its business of doing the interview – first in English and then in Hindi – and then the ‘cutaways’. The plight of the minister was at once pitiable and hilarious.
The same arrogance is in evidence when television anchors keep haranguing guests on their talk shows on a daily basis. Even basic courtesies are thrown out of the studio windows as the anchors keep harping; “The nation wants to know.”
It is about time we reined in the television media and brought a semblance of sanity and civility in the way it conducts its business. But the problem is: who will bell the cat? Certainly not the indulgent politician, who is always eager to have his face shown and his words heard on television.