In Defense of NDTV

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.]

9 thoughts on “In Defense of NDTV

  1. Well Atanu, i wud give the public a smaller part of blame and more to tv channel. Most of men enjoy porn, thT doesnt mean if a tv channel ( or the times of india) shows porn, then they are free of their social responsibity, and blame it all on audience.

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  2. Could it be that the person who is running NDTV is getting dividends in a different domain(political mileage) altogether, which can not be listed in the balancesheets?. Recent news about a stake in NDTV being owned by a Congressman suggests this.

    Also, this anamoly of bad coverage and still some viewership could be an example of market failure. Many people might not be aware of the alternate discourse/facts and thus believe what they see in NDTV. Most don’t know that they are being sold a lemon.

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  3. A couple of years ago, there was a stomach-churning case of revenge in AP where a 10-yr old girl (Naga Vaishavi) was kidnapped and murdered and had her body dumped in an industrial oven where it was reduced to ashes. Even as the father was being conveyed the news (perhaps the most painful moment one can face), TV cameramen jostled to get the clearest view of his face. The father died of cardiac shock the next day. I do not if this is the terminus of market economy or the nadir of insensitivity the society has sunk to. Maybe both.

    In a saner world, you would think that this is the place of regulation. Maybe you cannot expect the TV channels to do self-policing because their competitor would up the ante and push the envelope a little more. But then they would follow some standards if the next day a few people took the time to convey their displeasure.

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  4. Atanu,

    Your post reminds me of a Steve Jobs quote ..

    “When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It’s the truth.”

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  5. NDTV and ilk are worse than sodomisers. Yes, sodomy watchers are also to blame. That doesn’t absolve the sodomy promoters of the lions share of the blame.

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  6. Atanu seems to amaze me with every article. How do you compare the security of army / police personnels with the business of pimps. US TV channels are not stupid and its not like americans don’t want to watch live coverage. But the TV channels did the right thing (morally) in the interest of the officers and complied. Ofcourse NDTV is deplorable if they went after profit and did endanger the officers. Shame of you Atanu ! not only do you not have any sense, you do not even have respect for life.

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  7. Dear Murli,
    Please get a lesson in basic reading comprehension before you vomit all over the comments section, if that’s what you understood from this post.

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