All talk, all the time
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TV news offers solutions to all problems, from rape to the India-China border dispute
Major General G.D. Bakshi (Retd) was so very angry, his military moustache stiffened in combat readiness. He took aim and fired: "civilian defence analysts talk of appeasement", when the need of the hour on the India-China border is action — "military steps", he yelled, ready for battle. They think, he added, grinding his teeth, that "jaw, jaw, jaw" would solve all our problems (Headlines Today).
Unwittingly, Maj Gen Bakshi had identified a great truth about TV news. Everyone goes "jaw, jaw, jaw", all the time, offering solutions to rape, to the coal scam, to 2G and the India-China border dispute. Alternatively, they try to make things happen according to their thought for the day. So, on Tuesday, after the evening talkathon, you'd have gone to bed convinced India should be at war with China. According to the TV script, "Delhi's timidity" (Rahul Shivshankar, Headlines Today) was costing India its territorial integrity as China laid claim to the Depsang area, saying, "this is our land" (Arnab Goswami, Times Now).
You'd have also believed that by Wednesday morning, Manmohan Singh would have, should have, resigned as PM, either over the 2G or coal scandals. From Hindi news channels like NDTV India to their English counterparts like CNN-IBN, the question was: should the PM resign?
As for rape, the majority on TV clamoured for the death penalty in child rape cases. Even the wife of Manoj, accused of raping a five-year old girl in Delhi said, "Usko phaansi milni chahiye (he should be hanged)," if he was guilty (Zee News, Saturday). Later, she would retract but she reflected the mood of the country on television, if not the country as a whole. The doctor who first treated "gudiya", after clinically detailing her condition (Zee News warned that his views might be shocking), said that the rapist should be given the death sentence. Tuesday's discussion on Face the Nation (CNN-IBN) was somewhat more thoughtful, although no less shocking, with horrific statistics on child abuse. But the panellists reminded us that there was no comfort in the arrest of Manoj or his accomplice: most child abuse occurs within the family or is committed by friends and acquaintances.