This is what happened in a little town in Wisconsin today morning around 10:30 (CDT). A man went to a gurudwara and shot some people there. The police arrived on the scene and killed the man. The media were naturally on top of it, reporting live as as the event was unfolding. The police instructed the TV channels to not show any live helicopter video footage to avoid revealing their tactical moves to the attacker(s). The TV channels complied and that was that. The twitter channels burst into frenzied activity over the incident. Naturally enough, many Indian twitterers noted how restrained the TV channels were and how quickly they followed the police’s request to avoid jeopardizing the law enforcement’s response to the killer(s). NDTV, tweeters said, should learn a lesson.
During the TV coverage of the Nov 2008 Islamic terrorist attacks in Mumbai, some people had accused NDTV of revealing too much information in their live broadcasts which may have enabled the Islamic terrorists to kill more people than they otherwise would have been able to. Barkha Dutt, especially, came under heavy criticism. NDTV, it was alleged, did it for the TRPs. Greedy, callous SOBs that the TV channels are, they care only for TRPs and not about the lives of innocents — that was the considered judgement of the wise and wonderful people.
Are the TV channels really at fault? More specifically, is NDTV really to blame? What about the viewers?
Media channels care about TRPs because they depend on it for their income from advertisers. Their programming is driven by the preferences of their viewers, not the whims and fancies of channel executives. If they stopped providing their viewers what they (the viewers) liked, they would be out of business.
Perhaps NDTV does a lot of harm, and perhaps its reporters and anchors are the worst kind of low life known in the world. But they survive and continue to broadcast, which they could not have done without viewers. NDTV’s character is really a proxy for the TV-watching Indian’s character. If Indians really did value objective, unbiased, true and good reportage, what is stopping them from tuning NDTV off?
Why doesn’t India have a TV channel that is so great and wonderful that viewers desert NDTV and NDTV goes out of business?
Perhaps NDTV is a pimp. But it takes more than pimps to keep the prostitution business going. Indeed, pimps are just middlemen who enable the trade between prostitutes and johns. From my perspective, I approve of all agents that enable mutually beneficial trades which don’t have negative externalities. The politicians want to sell and the people want to buy. The TV channels enable that trade.
I hope the wise and the wonderful would stop pointing fingers at NDTV and the loathsome bunch like Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt & others. (Sorry I can’t list them all — it will take to much space.) But for the tastes and preferences of the Indians who dutifully watch them, the Ghoses and the Sardesais would have been probably shoveling shit in Louisiana. They are only the visible face of the rot that lies beneath. Let’s be thankful for they hold up the mirror to us, and their loathsomeness is merely a reflection of the loathsome qualities of the society.
[Continue on to read the followup to this post.]