Media plays puppeteer in Kerala politics (Kerala Newsletter)October 31st, 2011 - 3:35 pm ICT by IANS
Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 31 (IANS) A fierce competition in Kerala’s media industry, led by its shrill TV channels, has given the already colourful state politics the pace of a melodramatic reality show. No sooner does one controversy die down than a breathless TV channel screams itself hoarse about another “scoop”.
Kerala boasts of five homegrown news channels, besides four entertainment channels which also carry news bulletins.
“TV channels’ agenda seems to be that in six months’ time they want to see that a minister in the government resigns through a media overdose. If it happens, they expect their rating would surge,” a senior journalist told IANS, declining to be named.
Recent events certainly suggest something of the sort.
A news channel, appropriately named Reporter TV, aired a telephone call last month with veteran ruling front leader R. Balakrishna Pillai, who is currently serving a one-year jail term in a corruption case.
“Pillai was pleading with the journalist that the call should not be telecast because rules do not permit a person in jail to speak over phone. Is this journalism? Politicians do speak off the record to all journalists and is it ever made public?” government chief whip P.C. George told IANS.
This telephone call became the most debated event in all news channels and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led opposition lost no opportunity to raise the issue on the floor of the assembly.
“These days, sting operations are the order of the day. The TV channel did its job and Pillai should not have fallen for the bait,” CPI-M legislator and former state finance minister Thomas Issac said.
The most recent controversy featured George, who, in a public meeting last week, referred in the colloquial language to the Scheduled Caste status of CPI-M legislator and former minister A.K. Balan.
“I am really surprised why these TV channels go overboard on a remark which was aired in a lighter vein. I am ready to face litigation if anyone goes to court on this issue. Why should I apologise for no wrong,” asked George, who has now become the punching bag of the opposition.
Veteran journalist Sunnykutty Abraham said a section of the media was indulging in sensationalism.
“They are trying to sensationalise issues…It appears that these TV channels are failing to find real hard news and instead are raking up old issues. If this continues, the average viewer will lose interest in news,” said Abraham.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy dismisses the media blitz as a complete waste of time.
“All that you (journalists) are interested in is to create a smoke screen on issues, but I have other business to accomplish and hence I am not interested to react every now and then. Please leave me alone,” Chandy angrily told reporters in Kozhikode.
One can almost hear the TV channels sniggering at his request.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Tags: balakrishna, balan, c george, colloquial language, colourful state, communist party of india, communist party of india marxist, corruption case, entertainment channels, finance minister, government chief whip, jail term, kerala politics, news bulletins, pillai, public government, s media, state finance, state politics, sting operations