When TRP’s take over

Its no surprise to anyone today how the media is finding ways to do more than just report incidents. I think with cable TV, its become more than news we hear everyday. Repeating headlines, round the clock updates, talk shows, interviews, twitter do not just inform us, they influence our thoughts. I remember how news used to be just Star news with Prannoy Roy, Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Vikram Chandra, Sonia Verma and others being the cast with glossy bright blue backgrounds. The whole session lasted for half an hour on weekdays and an hour on sundays with an added entertainment section which was exciting because it was rare that one got to see the film stars on screen apart from movies. Just thinking about those times makes me feel so ancient. Now Aishwarya Rai’s pregnancy makes national headlines, twitter is the medium people use to find updates and the talk shows sparking action in various places. It is very good at times since I feel many people just work to avoid being a national embarrassment. So when they report about lakhs of rupees of bribes to get a kid into pre-school or child marriage (though till now I think khap panchayat simply rules) or some gross miscarriage of justice, it serves the purpose. Events, incidents, people in national spotlight are rarely let go easily. But since when did we turn to the news for entertainment or a shot of adrenaline?
I cannot remember the number of rapes, murders, bodies in a suitcase, molestations that appear on the headline everday. Hell, even a murder is not taken seriously anymore.(esp in the NCR region, it is dismissed lightly). Now this murder verdict. I can draw a parallel between the unfortunate Neeraj Grover case and another murder trial that had gripped US for the past 35 days – the Casey Anthony trial. Now, US media has one sole purpose – to make money. So they market what sells. It all started with this HLN ( a CNN spin off that no one takes seriously – I hadnt heard of this until I went to the CNN HQ) show with a famous lawyer who apparently never lost a case in her life – Nancy Grace who caught on to this trail in Florida about Casey Anthony being prosecuted for murdering her kid. (She is acquitted now so I cant really say much). But the story caught on. Since Florida courts allow cameras inside the courtroom, one could watch the proceedings live. Imagine the excitement of people. It was like a movie without having a scripted end. So the TRP’s soared and people were hooked. Before you know, the trial is the biggest phenomenon in recent times and the jury verdict of acquitting her has garnered immense anger and protest all over. The timing of the two cases – Grover and Anthony couldnt have been better to make a comparison. What I see happening is Americanization of the Indian media.
I dont necessarily call it a good thing. Indian media has much more responsibility on its shoulders from what I believe. With everything happening behind closed doors, it is imperative to report the exactness of the case rather than take sides. Both cases had women being the prime accused, both for murder but one had her face in the camera everyday with every move of hers recorded, deliberated and discussed. People did not rely on talk shows to formulate opinions. They could make their own since they saw the court proceedings themselves.The channels could safely cash upon the public sentiments, flash photos and videos of that little girl and merely pump up the consensus that was already developing.
Maria Susairaj, on the other hand is a different story altogether. Everyone has an opinion that she got off easy. But no one is certain. The educated class pass it off by saying ” We will never know the truth of what happened in the court.” “Cannot believe every word the media writes”, (“Dunno man, whatever” being the most common one). It is one thing to fight for injustice and help out the hapless bereaved Grover family but it is another to sensationalize the entire issue. After all, such grossly incorrect jugdements are not uncommon (remember Jessica Lal?). We knew there was a real killer who went scot free in that case but this scenario conjured by the media appears to be out of a movie scene. Indian media are trying to replicate the Anthony trial by repeated bombarding of sensational news, movie like plots to attract the people and build a strong public opinion. They are playing with fire. I do hope this actually results in something more than having all of India tune into 9pm for a daily dose of juicy gossip-like murder stories and nothing more.
Another ridiculous thing – Ram Gopal Verma for his silly comments bags headlines. I wonder why people are offended by an eccentric man who hasnt made a decent movie since 2002.Its like me making a morally wrong statement – who cares? See the point. He has no film-making skills anymore, the films he makes are hardly watchable and he overall seems pretty idiotic -comments or no comments. Why then give so much weight to his ideas?. I bet his movie is as crappy as Ram Gopal Vera ki Aaag. Let him release it all over. Why bother? The nitty-gritties of the murder case are never discussed, let alone the proof, the prosecution’s case etc. But I do know everyone is upset that a Ram Gopal Verma made a movie out of this and passed inhuman comments. I think we need to disconnect the media from the entertainment business and go back to the sunday 10 minute glossies. It would do a load of good for everybody.
All Im saying is Indian media and news channels should not ape the west in trying to build TRP’s using news, murders and entertainment. They actually are capable of airing life-transforming stories and reports that could alter the society. They can really make a difference, make agonies heard, help out people in despair since media is the one thing that everyone is still afraid of. It is the most powerful tool to reach to people. I hope they dont misuse it further.
On a lighter note: Im all set for Delly Belly’s farts and cusses. I know the movie is slotted as ‘cheap heat’ and thrill but I’d take that than go for another Bachchan offering. Im currently sick of them all and the thought of them multiplying..eeks!

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