They're very shrill, but they're not anchoring TV news. Instead, they're critics sharply criticising television discussions for giving shrill thrills whenever Pakistan fires at India or a politician crosses an ethical LoC. As TV anchors prepare arsenals, critics also craft lofty columns about Outdoor Broadcast vans winging it to the borders or wars raging inside newscasters' heads. They thus reveal how they're stuck at a centuries-old version of Indian news, unable to understand powerful new changes underway.
For such critics, news still lingers somewhere in the good old days between Doordarshan and AIR, where it was read out to placid listeners, and views were a one-sided affair. Even when there were two speakers to tango, they either agreed or civilly agreed to disagree. Nothing could be more civil, in fact, except perhaps a chat over cheese toast and chai at a club where you rang a little bell for a refill.
In the 1990s, when non-government TV news emerged, reportage grew more hectic but analyses felt the same. Government views were presented as fait accompli, politicians and anchors looked cosier-than-thou while daily events were treated as an amiable wrangle over an invisible gin.
Today's 'shrill' TV news shatters that clubby calm. With its furious arguments and accusations, direct insults and cutting responses, its blood pressure, scowls and tears, it shreds the warm 'ideological quilt' Slavoj Zizek describes. It bridges the gap between metropolitan leaders and citizens across this vast land. And it emphasises the one element traditionally erased from Indian news — emotion.
From the ancient myth of Sanjay live-streaming the Maha-bharata battle, to modern milestones from Bhakra Nangal to Bollywood, the telling of Indian news set itself on an air-waved version of the Westminster model — calm and steady, whilst side-stepping the latter's insights. Our model snuggled easily into the familiar gurukul, the lazy lecture hall, the seminary of yawns, where audiences simply heard and the speaker never once said, the nation wants to know.
But modern TV news insists on this and thus becomes the shrill but vibrant beast it is, rushing to all corners of stories, perhaps not pausing long and deep enough, but certainly giving you a clue as to what lies where. Its energy surprised even Amartya Sen recently, the Nobel laureate confronted by his economics on live TV, multiple analysts offering versions and views, cutting into each other and Sen simultaneously. Such discussions make the ancestors of Sen's own argumentative Indian, debating din-e-elahi in palatial Fatehpur Sikri or reflecting on life under the shade of a Bodhi tree, look just that — ancestral.
For today's 'shrill' TV news has understood something its critics haven't. India is aspiring and not just to buy designer shoes and emulate the powerful, but also to access news that truly empowers ordinary lives. With a sudden profusion of media, India's citizen wants to know everything, and not for vicari-ous thrills.
Faced with corruption, ineptitude and criminality, the citizen wants to know how to live with dignity and hope. She wants to draw courage from others and offer sustenance to them too. She wants to connect to a community bound by middle-class ideals, which, in the previous obsession with patricians and proletariats, was completely overlooked.
And living in an interconnected world, where American drones, Chinese dolls and EU visas impact her life, she wants to know exactly how India's policies are made. Old TV discussions, involving chatty camaraderie, don't touch this need but 'shrill' TV news, with daily stamina and occasional skill, presents emotions, ideals and demands that do.
Yet critics claim events are pumped up for decibels to follow suit. They couldn't be more cynical or wrong — the shocked public protests following the Nirbhaya gang rape, the frustration over Pakistan's border-line madness, or the support to Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement weren't spurred on by TV. These emotions — disappointment, grief, hope — exist tangibly around us. Smart TV simply picks up on this pulse and gets its act together, presenting an emotional nation inside a studio.
Against a backdrop where mandarins and manholes both impact lives, a shrill TV show doesn't reflect its creators' lack of imagination or their ratings race. It reflects the far greater failures of politicians, bureaucrats and public services — everyone taxpayers pay — to do their job. Why quibble at righteous indignation there?
Thus, an OB van becomes the opposite of a red-beacon car, its earnestness a contrast to the shiny pomposity of those paid to serve. The proliferation of shrill TV is much more than Indian media adopting loud, pushy Ame-ricana over polished, restrained Britannica — it is ordinary India reshaping its own democratic space, giving voice to emotions birthed from politics, posing loud questions and demanding answers after 66 patient years.
This is also the acknowledgment that 'news' is simply the opera of our collective life, its drama reflecting our beauty and tragedies, our chaos and brilliance. It is this opera that has changed from muted and mundane to shrill and surprising. The nation's volume has indeed shot up and with good cause. As Pierre Bourdieu writes, the most successful censorship gives voice to people who have nothing to say except what is expected of them — quietly at that.
Aseem Seth - Unmistakably speaking of , without naming, my channel http://www.timesnow.tv/ ;)