TV NEWS ANCHORS PLAYING ‘BI-JAMALO’
Most people these days are fed up with the content and quality of talk shows on our news channels aired during prime time. All of them have a uniform formula. Invite three politicians of varying competence and experience, one from each of the three major political parties, give them a topic and then throw the discussion open. And open it is, no doubt about it, in every way. The talks begins on a cool note, gradually gain tempo and by the middle of the program everybody is seen shouting at each other at the top of their voices, using the most despicable language possible. The anchor does not wish to be left behind, and starts to shout even more. And then there is an ad break. The discussion takes off after the break at the same tempo and goes on like this until the last minute. The discussion is hurriedly closed off at the end by the anchor without any conclusion.
Recently, some news producers have tried to bring in a change to this formula, they throw in one or two journalists also in the pot as garam masala. Most of the time, these journalists too have preconceived ideas (mostly anti-politicians regardless of party), come to the discussion without homework and, as a result, gleefully join the shouting.
There is a very interesting idiom in our language: bhus mein chingari daal bi-jamalo door khari). One does not begin to understand the true meaning of this idiom until one watches our worthy anchors at the news channels. Like a true bi-jamalo, they have developed the art of igniting the already frayed emotions of the participants to perfection. They look hurt and resentful at the proceedings, tears in their eyes, helplessly trying to tame the wolves. Inside, they are thrilled, fully motivated and being egged on by the producer. More the melee, more the viewership, bigger the ratings. And when a female slaps a male; wow!, that’s the mother and father of all melees. Instant stardom, endless replays on YouTube.
So, is it any wonder that fewer people are watching Pakistani news channels these days, which is a fact proven by market surveys. One is surprised at finding oneself turning to BBC sometimes these days in the middle of a local talk show. There is an instant feeling of coolness, like moving from a boiler room to an air-conditioned lounge. These market surveys thankfully do away with the myth that noble behavior and good sense were a permissible sacrifice at the altar of higher ratings; it seems now that bad behaviour on part of TV anchors’ and talk show participants’ is in fact producing the opposite effect, of blowing away the cherished ratings.
And it is producing another side effect, far more lethal in the long term. It is making our politicians look bad, generally, without any exception, and to all sections of our society. Which most of them are not, if they were not thrown into the arena to fight each other like gladiators in the Roman Colosseum. This then invariably leads to the two other pillars of state look better, far more than their share, because everything is relative. If left unchecked, this is going to result in slowly eroding people’s confidence in democracy, which will prove disastrous in the end