Friday, 24 January 2020

An Insider’s View On Broadcast Media

Updated: March 2, 2013 3:59 pm

This book brings to the fore a realistic and detailed account of how broadcast media works in the country—the challenges, the technology and the editorial calls that go behind getting the true picture from ground zero. The Indian media landscape is being pushed by technology in content consumption and pulled by changing audience preferences. Against this backdrop, Akash Banerjee’s narratives capture the multiple directions in which broadcast media is moving towards. In fact to understand the political as well as social realities of present-day India it is essential to understand the dynamics of Indian media. This book is an attempt in promoting that understanding.

Iconic American broadcast journalist Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. (1916-2009) used to end all his bulletins and news stories with a catchphrase, “And that’s the way it is…” All that present-day journalists have to do is to follow this axiom to the hilt and report what is, and not what is perceived. Journalism is a profession that demands long hours and always comes up short on money, yet broadcast media still has that element of adventure in it: Reporting the big story from ground zero, flying into unknown territories to dig up facts, and the license .to ask the toughest of questions to the biggest of names. This book attempts to recreate some of the journalistic magic that the writer has experienced over the last decade. According to the writer, broadcast journalism is a very different ball game—the sophisticated technology, the 24×7 buzz of breaking news, the challenging deadlines and the ability to communicate with lakhs, while anchoring the evening news. It’s an adrenaline rush that borders on the magical.

Akash Banerjee draws from his experience of close to a decade on the field, to detail how news channels have reported some of the biggest stories of our time—from the darkest hour of the 26/11attacks to the proudest moment of sending Chandrayaan to the moon; from the spectacular fall of the Left parties to the unprecedented rise of Anna Hazare; from the poverty fuelled Naxal movement in the heartlands to the diverse festivals that glue together the hearts of millions.

At a time when the broadcast media is coming under fire for alleged opportunism, profit making and dereliction of duty, this book offers a detailed insight into how news channels really function. Provocative and insightful, the essays talk about how broadcast journalists continue to remain loyal to their core competency of getting the news and the pictures first, even risking their life and limbs in the process. That is why, despite all the competition from the web and social media platforms, it’s still news channels that people tune into to get the big story as it develops.

As one flips the pages of this book, one realises that the media does more than just stimulate with joy at every frivolous piece of news. A newspaper generally has only one edition per day; a news channel, in sharp contrast, has as many as forty-eight—every half-an-hour news bulletin is a new edition. Newspapers may be able to present a more cohesive and balanced perspective, however, when the big story breaks, the medium of television comes into its element—the video clip that is worth a million words, the voices of people that cannot be replicated in print, the wide-angle perspective that cannot fit into the narrow columns of news print. This book celebrates television news gathering and the stories that often remain behind the camera.

In the book, you will visit flood-ravaged Bihar, witness the 26/11 terror attacks unfolding in Mumbai, walk through a plane crash site in Mangalore and travel into the Maoist-infested forests of Dantewada. In many instances, the writer admits, while reporting on conflict stories, that he has put himself in harm’s way, but that is just part of his job. However, after coming back from a particularly rough assignment he makes it a point to buy a heavy insurance policy, because a journalist’s ID does not get him immunity from bullets. The truth is hard but the writer speaks that truth about recent watershed events and their coverage.

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