You don’t have to be famous and dead anymore to be on TV for hours. Being plain ridiculous will do. Like the guy who claimed that he met Yamraj, the traditionally deep throated god of death. He not only remembered having coke and popcorn on the way, but also remembered the god sitting on a buffalo, flaunting his big mustache. He even remembered Yamraj’s enquiry committee suddenly realizing that they had got the wrong man. He even clearly remembers how Yamraj reprimanded his attendant ” ullo ke pathhey, yeh kisko utha le aaya. “ (Yamraj speaks in Hindi! )Thus he returned to earth and lived to tell his tale on Aaj tak – sabse tej. A panel discussion followed, where experts and psychiatrists discus death , previous birth and related matters.

These channels have altered the definition of news and in the process transformed their own fortunes. These channels are almost always showing that curious things called ‘exclusive ‘news. It must be their high journalistic standards that prevent them from calling weather reports ‘breaking news’.

In their quest for maximum viewership language channels may appear shrill and hilariously dramatic. Their Hindi channels rivals are running away with huge advertising revenues by airing live stories like this or that of an old man from Madhya Pradesh who predicted his own time of death (wrongly it transpired). As the time of his foretold death neared, reporters went into frenzy; cameras zoomed onto a frail man sitting in a temple. They even got his wife’s poignant quote “inko to pehle se hi pata tha kab jayenge. “. The anchor sitting in the studio poses question to all the viewers and they are asked to Vote ( Kya xyz ki kuch der me maut ho jayegi? Agar aapka jawab haan hai to SMS kijiye YES nahi to SMS kijiye NO to 5687…) The experts then spend a lot of time discussing through studio panels the apparent science behind astrological predictions. A little girl who claimed to recount her past life was also given excellent coverage on prime time. In the name of reality TV, news channel let an anchor cover her own wedding. She welded the mike in between mehendi and other ceremonies. The camera followed her on the customary arrival at the husband’s home, but prudently stopped short of covering the first night. Across all channels the crime journalists are becoming the news Brahmins of TV. At the top of the heap is Sansani, a hysterical crime bulletin which gives a daily account of crime from across the country. In another crime bulletin the anchor is seen screaming at the camera “Chain se sona hai to jag jao “.

The fierce competition has produced a kind of lawlessness. When one channel lowers the bar, everybody jumps the gun. It’s true that when such stories hit the air the news find soaring ratings, large TRPs. But it clearly exposes what the majority actually want. Forever gone are the days when news telecast entailed ribbon cutting by misters, inaugurating bridges or a portrait of a political leader followed by insufferable speeches. A celebrity caught in a controversy, Sadhus and their unholy escapades, flesh trade in name of massage parlors, a couple in love and on the run against family pressure are all forms of news which have nothing to do with what’s traditionally called ‘national interest’. The news has become more of entertainment news. The story, packaging or the visuals are made attention grabbing and simply compelling.

But ultimately credibility of the news channel will be final calling. Even though these channels might get high viewership for such stories, they wouldn’t be able to sustain it for long. Such stories may get TRPs for a few days, but eventually people will flock to channels which show credible news.

India TV setting new standards in journalism! Have a look at the below pictures.