Friday, July 25, 2014

Mutual respect and camaraderie matter much more than TRPs

Lionel Messi may have been awarded the 2014 World Cup Golden Ball as the Best Player of the tournament but he wasn’t quite able to stamp his mark over the month-long sporting extravaganza. In the event, as it turned out, it was Germany’s “miracle boy” Mario Goetze who clinically chested down a pass and essayed a classy left-footer past the diving Argentinean goalkeeper to score the winner and enable Germany to record a historic win – the first by a European team in South America.

All through the World Cup tournament, as in the final, there were fouls galore, yellow cards flashed, and injured players hobbling off. Nothing was quite as saddening, especially for Brazilian fans, as the exit of Neymar who suffered a minor fracture on his back bone while jockeying for the ball mid-air in a match against Colombia. However, despite all the aggressive charges, wild tackles and deliberate fouls, what one saw on the field was spontaneous camaraderie, the shaking of hands and the patting of backs. After Brazil was destroyed 7-1 by Germany, the German players were seen comforting the Brazilians who were weeping in anguish. This is what makes the world of sport so very special. You may fight the bitterest battle but after the game is over, you shake hands, smile, exchange pleasantries and even chat over a drink or two. The media has often played a part in highlighting some of the nuances, friendships and bonds that are forged cutting across teams, nationalities and religions.

I often wonder why we do not get to see this kind of bonhomie in our Indian world of politics. Why doesn’t mainstream media, especially television since it is such a powerful medium, focus more on holding gentlemanly discussions, on bringing leaders from various streams of political thought together? Sadly, on our television channels, prime time, or super prime time, is all about pitting one person or one group against another,– spokespersons of political partiers, lawyers, leading editors and columnists (the same faces are seen most of the time), social and political activists, and, of course, some celebrity or the other. Most of the time it is high drama, with voices raised, people speaking out of turn, some not allowing others to speak. It is a sort of vociferous game, the person with the loudest voice often outdoing the others. Just as the anchors want, for after all, the more dramatic, the higher your TRPs. 

You don’t find this sort of thing on the BBC, for instance. Discussions there are much more sober and calmer. So, as a viewer, you feel like watching. I wonder whether our television channels understand that when there is cacophony, the viewer’s immediate reaction is to reduce the volume and if that doesn’t help, to switch off. Many don’t return any more to view such programmes. We all need peace and quiet. Discussions can be forceful, but they should be held in an atmosphere of mutual respect and friendliness, as football’s sporting heroes have just shown all of us. The channels should actually discourage speakers from going hammer-and-tongs against one another and lay the ground rules for healthy and stimulating debate. Will we ever get to see that happen? I don’t think so. But some of India’s top television anchors and media groups would do well to introspect and change for the better.

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