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Updated: August 24, 2011 20:02 IST

The news that didn't quite make it

Mohit M. Rao
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Hogging the limelight: Anna Hazare
Hogging the limelight: Anna Hazare

While the “second Independence movement” ran ad nauseam on television, Naxals gunned down three troopers on August 20, and one West Bengal Communist party worker on Tuesday. On August 21, 12 militants and an Indian Army officer were killed in an exchange of fire in Kashmir, and 26 Congress MLA's in Andhra Pradesh resigned, seriously endangering the stability of an already fragile government there.

Indeed, even as news channels lingered on a fasting Anna Hazare, ran his BP and sugar levels on the ticker, and broadcast the growing clamour of the campaign, the country missed out on some rather significant news.

So even as the Delhi Municipal Corporation worked tirelessly to clear up the slush and set up the grand spectacle in Ramlila Maidan (sparking a million cringe-worthy references to ‘Tahrir Square'), over 38 died and over a million people were displaced in the Bihar floods, and an International Human Rights organisation expressed concern over thousands of unmarked graves in India-occupied Kashmir.

Team Anna, however, proved rather fortuitous for a certain bunch of people: the Indian cricket team. Their humiliating drubbing in the England Test series went all but unnoticed on the front pages of the dailies (with M.S Dhoni ‘thanking' Anna Hazare for the media's compassion, according to an SMS joke.)

So, why do television news channels love him so? The simple answer is of course the middle class, who constitute the majority of their consumers.

It is clear from the oft-repeated ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai' chants that the movement is now a sacred right for all non-corrupt Indians. And then, there's Hazare himself, who with that tilt of head, frailty and meditative posture, is now slowly morphing into the middle-classes' pop-culture Gandhi.

The Hoot, an online media watchdog group, placed the ad revenue for TV channels from Hazare's April 3 to 11 fast (remember Team Anna held the fast strategically a few days after the coverage of the World Cup win died down) at Rs. 175.8 crore. And the coverage totalled a mammoth 655 hours (only 1 per cent of the coverage showed the fast with some degree of negativity.)

And if you didn't shed a tear when the little child offered Hazare a glass of ‘nimboo pani' to break his April fast, TV made you sure you got ample opportunity.


Couch Potato March 9, 2011

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