Tuesday, May 19, 2009

10 hours of continuous TV watching and my winner is....


After hours of back-breaking research into comparative election coverage(fine, it was just the first two hours!), I conclude that NDTV 24X7 came out a marginal winner in the contest for the least annoying TV channel covering the election roller-coaster. NDTV's graphics were updated at a faster rate, were more clearer and the analysis was actually a bit more sober than that of its nearest rival CNN-IBN. The latter, which was affected by a keen desire to prove itself in its first general election, ended up being a bit too shrill and the analysis sometimes distracted the viewer from the updates that were coming in. Times Now was unfortunately a poor third as it lagged behind in speed and analysis.

Of course, all was not rosy with NDTV as well. One got to see Barkha Dutt's face contorting in every way possible pretty often as the camera was slow in moving away from her face while she was communicating with her team plus there were quite a few technical glitches. But these were only the superficial(and mildly entertaining) issues that the media exhibited. The real ones perhaps lie much deeper.

It is pretty obvious that while many of the exit polls predicted the direction of the results, they often went completely wrong in the specifics(which is why they failed to get the numbers). This could partly be the result of some genuine nervousness after the debacle in 2004(NDTV psephologist Dorab Sopariwala looked like he would have a heart attack till the results began coming out). Another reason could be the fact that national channels have abandoned the concept of reporting from the ground and often depend on correspondents who are stationed at state capitals and have access to political leaders alone. Thus the failure to see trends in UP and West Bengal, which considering their magnitude, should have been quite a bit obvious.

It is easy to understand why news channels are slowly abandoning the kind of reporting necessary to predict swings like these. Varun's Gandhi's antics are any day more entertaining and 'news-worthy' than shifts in the voting patters in eastern UP and it saves so much man-power when you can attribute the decimation of the CPI(M) to 'rural discontent' without exactly defining what it is. It is important that channels and media watchers keep these issues in mind and frequently remind themselves that getting the trends right is no achievement in itself when significant developments are completely missed out during the course of analysis.

Other mundane points.
1) Everyone seems ready to applaud and bid a warm farewell to L.K.Advani. This is utter crap. However much he 'tried' to modify his stance, India cannot forgive the man who led the march to demolish the Babri Masjid.
2) Karan Thapar is an awesome interviewer. He is also a bad anchor. The drama involved in his exclaiming mundane phrases like 'vote percentage' is seriously off-putting.
3) Barkha Dutt and Vikram Chandra are a very bad pair. They frequently kept tripping up each other. Me thinks there is some serious power struggles on at NDTV.
4) Times Now needs some decent support staff for Arnab Goswami. Poor fellow seems sagging from all that pressure.
5) Why was Lord Meghnad Desai a part of the CNN-IBN coverage? Why not Mandira Bedi the next time then?
6) Amidst Rajdeep Sardesai's brazen attempts to promote CNN-IBN, Prannoy Roy is more balanced any day.

The election season is as good as any to give out a spree of Katrina Awards and there are many who have qualified for the said honor, from the Amma of the South to Comrade Karat. But then, I look back and realize that since the award committee itself was living in quite a deluded world(I was quite sure of a hung parliament), it is perhaps time to forgive and forget in the best traditions of this election season. Chilllll!! :)

PS. A modified version of this post was first published at desicritics
PS2. I just found out that I was not the only person to have the bright idea of comparing the performance of news channels. The media watchdog website, The Hoot has a significantly more comprehensive piece on the coverage. But then, the Hoot is a media watchdog website. This is just the dailypheesh ;)


Anonymous said...

Amidst all the shrillness and the hysterics, Prannoy's calm and measured demeanour stood out. That in itself made NDTV the winner, though Barkha and Vikram did try to spoil the party. Amazing how Prannoy's presence made even Barkha breathe slow and easy!

It seemed to me that Rajdeep was the most hysterical of the lot, comfortably beating the likes of India TV and Aaj Tak.


Quirky Indian

Prasanth said...

True, but then Rajdeep Sardesai had the luxury of being able to scream cause he did not have the background of having made a terrible mistake as NDTV had done.

It was amusing to see the amount of self-depreciation in the NDTV ranks before the results with all those jokes on the stats. Some lessons have to be learned the hard way :)

Anonymous said...

So you're a Roy fan, too? Yay! Though I think he's a shadow of his former self. And by former self I mean his 'The World This Week' days. When I had a massive schoolgirl crush on him, I might add. :)

From my sporadic, intermittent viewing, I thought Vir Sanghvi was not bad, either. Even his platitudes for the Gandhi family were quite soberly articulated!