WRITTEN BY SHAILAJA BAJPAI
“First on Times Now”; “First on Republic”. “Super (Mega) Expose” (Times Now); “Super Exclusive” (Republic).
“The nation wants to know” (Times Now); “Why should the nation not know” (Republic).
“Shashi Tharoor is on the run… running away from us” (Republic); “Are they running away from answers?” (Times Now, #GandhiVIPSaas). “Sensational impact” (Times Now); “Arvind stunned”, “Tharoor ratttled” (Republic) — so is the writer, hence the spelling error, but never mind that.
You see how little separates them?
Times Now and Republic TV, which was launched last weekend. And how could it be otherwise? As you and the nation may or may not know — or want to know — “Arnab is back”. Not on Times Now but on Republic.
The two — Times Now and Goswami — once inseparable in our minds, parted company last November, and are now engaged in a fight to finish first in the viewership ratings for English news channels, a position Times Now enjoyed for a long time and is in no mood to surrender to the TV anchor whom they launched, and who propelled them ahead of all other comers.
They are also running, by the way, running news channels without really giving you the news of the day. It’s a brilliant lesson on how to run a 24×7 news channel with just one “story” per day, maybe two at most with short intervals — rather like commercial breaks — of “Breaking News”. This has been happening earlier, for instance, when J. Jayalalithaa passed away. That was a developing story. These are stories developed by the channels, if you note the difference.
Times Now has spent many of our waking hours since the weekend on the following: One, how Pakistan’s ISI has funded Kashmir’s stone pelters through local sources; two, an “exclusive investigation” into Sonika Chauhan’s “accidental” death in Kolkata; three, #MallyaSecretLoot on Vijay Mallya’s undisclosed properties and assets. And on Monday, the “super expose” on Priyanka Gandhi’s mother-in-law’s security cover for the last 13 years, while “India’s daughters ignore”. Kyunki saas bhi kabhi insecure thi?
Maureen Vadra’s saga began after 8 pm, Tuesday, for India Upfront went on into The Newshour and Times Now was firing salvos at the Gandhi-Vadra parivar till after 1 pm on Wednesday. Kapil Mishra’s allegations against Arvind Kejriwal, the International Court of Justice delayingKulbhushan Jadhav’s death sentence and the “sensational impact” of Times Now on the Sonika story dodged Maureen Vadra’s security net to make it to live TV.
Meanwhile, “India’s biggest news network” — Republic — pursued Lalu Prasad in conversation with don-politician Mohammad Shahabuddin (“Power or morality, Nitish?”), Arvind Kejriwal and Shashi Tharoor: “Third Republic super exclusive. A story no channel has told before. Standby. 5 pm” — the new prime time? (Monday).
The “19 murder tapes” related to Sunanda Pushkar’s case were played out over the next 24 hours. Short of arresting Tharoor for the murder of his wife on the basis of recorded innocuous conversations, primarily between his Man Friday Narayan and Republic’s Prema Sridevi, they staked him out in the enormous Mumbai studio (“the crime is murder, tell me the motive”) and outside his home: “Five of our reporters are chasing Tharoor”; “He is inside” —“Is that him in the yellow T-shirt?”
When Tharoor emerged on Tuesday, his “goons” apparently “manhandled” the Republic team. That ought to be clinching evidence of his guilt in the Sunanda case?
Like Times Now, the channel took a Kapil Mishra break, and of course, one for the ICJ ruling in the Jadhav case — isn’t Arnab “Pakistan’s Migraine”? By Wednesday afternoon, they were chasing Akhilesh Yadav for a “dirty comment” on army “martyrs”. Now, he must be on the run too.
The single-minded pursuit of these stories by these channels should be applauded. Clap. Clap. Clap. That they had time for almost nothing else testifies to their commitment and zealousness. Interestingly, their focus has been on the alleged misdemeanours of politicians in opposition parties — the Gandhis, Lalu, Kejriwal, Tharoor, Akhilesh. The current leading English news channel and the news anchor watched avidly devote most of their time to the Opposition or “anti-nationals”, as they like to call them.
That they believe they should be watchdogs of the Opposition, rather than those who govern the country, is a new dimension they have brought to their understanding of their roles. As a colleague pointed out, this could be an opportunity for DD News to seize the middle ground. Already, it’s looking far, far more newsy.
COURTESY INDIAN EXPRESS