Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Problem with #IBNOpenMike

Since the election season began, CNN-IBN (+IBNLive)  has sent their editor Sagarika Ghosh on a long assignment across India with her Open Mike series to get her out of her rather boring Face The People and actually face the people in various corners of India - Noida, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi, Jind, Varanasi and others. And while the series has been fairly good and has caught a range of diverse voices, there are two problems I have with it.

First, the show is regularly hijacked by people who clearly represent some political interest of the other. The best example of this was in a rather violent episode from Meerut, where a person who was clearly an SP worker went on chanting about an 'Akhilesh Yadav wave,' which even the most naive of political watchers will say is a figment of a very poor imagination. In Ahmedabad, a person who was clearly a Congress worker went along on loud sermons against Modi, disagreeing with everybody else on the panel (although he did have some questionable facts with him). In Chennai, a man (boy?) who even admitted that he was a BJP worker was in the discussion. Possibly the only episode without such problems was the one in Varanasi for no other reason than it was the most tightly-controlled episode of all. These elements tend to hijack the debate, speaking with the loudest voice and the least logic and that ruins the entire discussion.

My second problem is with the questions that Sagarika asks. It is a well-known fact that she, who coined the term 'Internet Hindus,' dislikes Narendra Modi. But that bias shows so evidently in the questions she asks - asking about a Modi wave in a crowd of Muslims, getting a negative answer and showing profound satisfaction at it is not called fair journalism. She mostly ignores saner voices - such as the lady who was trying to make a point about education for Muslims in Gujarat - especially when they are about to say anything in favor of Modi or the BJP. And even worse, she ignores the most brutally honest people of all - those who say that votes are given on the basis of caste, religion and freebies. These are the only people who are willing to say what everybody knows to be true and she lends her maximum contempt to them. Perhaps it was only in her Muzaffarnagar episode that she was forced to acknowledge that that is how India votes.

Overall, IBN Open Mike, like other similar shows on NDTV or Headline Today, is a good idea and much better than FTP, which was just a sorry excuse for leftist armchair discussions. But it is being executed by the wrong person, someone who just cannot get out of the FTP-style of discussion. Given the other journalists that CNN-IBN has, those who have been doing such excellent work in their Election Yatra series, there could have been many able replacements for Sagarika Ghosh. Pity that the channel is run like a nepotistic business. 

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