In the year 2012, there were riots in Assam. The then editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, Rajdeep Sardesai, wrote a bizarre article explaining that it was “tyranny of distance” that didn’t allow him to cover the Assam riots with the same intensity as Gujarat riots of 2002. What was his defence? That “No national channel has an OB van in Guwahati.”
“National channel” or “National media” has continued to be such a misnomer ever since. Rajdeep Sardesai continues to live under the distinct impression that he represents “national media”.
Just two days back, he put out a bizarre tweet that he received a “message” from “a friend”. The alleged message from the friend says that ‘national channels’ have less time for east coast than they do for west. Isn’t his “friend” merely repeating what Rajdeep himself told way back in 2012? In the same tweet this controversial man also calls the AmPhan cyclone as “Bengal cyclone”, conveniently forgetting that the cyclone hit Odisha too – but we digress, because there continue to be people who think any news is fit for coverage only if “national media” covers it.
It is still unclear as to when the Delhi based English TV media that covers news only from a few cities (with excessive focus on Delhi) started to assume that they are “national media”. How does one summon the consciousness to call oneself has “national media” when you have zero presence in capital cities of more than half the states in India? Leave the capital cities, how does one summon the courage to call oneself “national” when they find it difficult to even cover areas that are closer to their glitzy studios in New Delhi?
A twitter search of “national media” and “sardesairajdeep” reveals how periodically this man sermonizes on “national media” didn’t do this, didn’t cover that, should have covered this etc! The irony is never lost out on him – he considers himself as “national media” and then sermonizes to himself and yet makes zero attempts to correct himself.
Today’s discussions on the English TV media are more often than not a cacophony of voices vying to win the coveted prize of the best shouter! National media should imply that they have equal amount of coverage from each state of the country. National media should imply that they have panelists from all across India, every single day to discuss about the events happening all across India. National media should imply that they don’t come up with bizarre “Tyranny of distance” articles to justify their limited reach in the country.
Even in terms of sheer numbers, the reach of other language media such as Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada etc is much higher than the English media. The Indian Readership survey 2019 is proof. The BARC viewership numbers are proof. The regional language media (TV and Print) has footprint in almost every mandal of their respective states. The editorials of the regional media are more widely read, their classifieds are more widely popular, and their discussions are more widely watched. In fact, I think the district editions of some of the regional language newspapers are perhaps more widely read than these self-proclaimed “national media”!
Some of these news channels run 30-minute programs to cover news from South India. And then I always wonder why they don’t have a similar section for say North India, East India etc. It’s not like there is massive coverage on their channels for Jharkhand, Sikkim, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Punjab (I can go on and on!). For example, www.ndtv.com/south exists. And you get a “Oops, there was a problem” error when you try to find www.ndtv.com/east. Go check the “North” page of https://www.indiatoday.in/india/north – all you get is “Here is your horoscope” stories but “South” page of https://www.indiatoday.in/india/south at least exists with some old stories.
It is therefore no wonder that readers/viewers from various cities are riled up when the English TV media conveniently choses to gloss over tragedies in many parts of the country – including in those where they have “OB vans”. The question of hypocrisy came up because these self-obsessed anchors began these strange claims that they represent “national media” and somehow are more superior to these lowly beings in the regional media.
Yet, English TV media is powerful. What gives them this disproportionate power? The only reason I can think of is that they sit very close to the power centres in New Delhi. Their immediate access to the multiple echelons of the Central government is what made them think they are invincible and yield this massive influence on policy. Their editors occupy the position of President of Editors Guild (take a look at their past Presidents and see for yourself the disproportionate control of English media).
Their arrogance stems from the fact that Sonia’s UPA had given them so much access to so much insider information and even control over cabinet formation! In the words of Rahul Roshan, this is the “establishment” they conquered during its formative years itself. The advent of social media is when the dismantling of their halo had begun. Today, some of the once-most-powerful channels are reduced to merely trolling social media users. While the battle to dismantle this halo continues, it is important to yet again highlight the simple fact to the likes of Rajdeep Sardesai – you are English media, not National media. Stop blowing up your ego so much.