Anything goes, anything went

Thackeray was a politician cherished and worshipped by his followers in Maharashtra but criticised and disliked by others for sundry commissions and omissions. He was indicted by the Srikrishna Commission in its Mumbai riots report. With such a questionable legacy, should TV news have accorded him carpet coverage, sprinkled with fond remembrances, homages paid by politicians and Bollywood stars alike? Should there have been a blanket black-out of other news on Sunday and 12 hours or more of almost uninterrupted coverage (barring commercial breaks) of his last journey? Should reporters and anchors have showered Thackeray with praise, faint or otherwise?

Many of us receive at least a dozen Indian news channels in Hindi and English. Plenty to choose from, you'd say. Not on Sunday, when Bal Thackeray's procession from his home in Matoshree to his funeral rites at Shivaji Park was the sole occupant of news space — unless you watched DD News. So, no plurality or diversity, only copycat coverage. But Hindi and English news channels are viewed throughout the north and the rest of the country, not only in Maharashtra.

And then, over the next two days, the same channels that bid Thackeray a fond farewell went hammer and tongs at Thackeray's Shiv Sena and the Mumbai police for allegedly persecuting two young women who made innocuous remarks about the total shutdown of Mumbai. Is there something ironic about that or not? The girl, Shaheen, had written that Sunday's Mumbai bandh was due to "fear". On Tuesday, Sardesai asked the Shiv Sena: does it mean that if you say or write anything against Shiv Sena, you are not safe? Perhaps that's a question TV news channels should ask themselves.

And perhaps Kaikeyi should be dressed up like a modern miss. And perhaps we should have more TV commercials like the ones promoting the India-England series. You know the ones? Where "Mrs Bhonsle ne angrezon ki bansuri baja di" and Shuklas "ne angrezon ka band baja diya"? Perhaps this is black humour and not in bad taste. Or no more distasteful than the Amul body warmer ad, in which an elderly, bedridden gentleman is deprived of his bed by the villagers who want to burn it as firewood to keep them warm.

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