I believe when the uprising in Egypt started attracting major headlines internationally, some members of the Indian mainstream media rushed to Egypt to provide on-the-spot coverage. Why this was necessary in the first place was a mystery since the Mid-East in general, including Egypt & several other countries would not quite be high-up on the typical domestic mass-market audience or viewer’s list of interesting places in any case and since that is typically the market most national & regional news-channels in India
cater to, the move still remains largely inexplicable. Maybe this constituted a pioneering attempt to broaden the horizons of the target audience, as it were. One also wondered what was the typical Indian angle, if any, that they were planning to cover since there weren’t a large number of Indian expats based in Egypt in any case and also since the Indian govt., generally clueless & not knowing which way to turn, as is fairly typical of the way it conducts its foreign policy, continued maintaining a studied silence on the whole affair. In any case several major international publications & channels like Al-Jazeera, NYT, Guardian & CNN to name a few were already doing an excellent job of covering the developments extensively & timely. Also, this being Revolution 2.0, as many have suggested since, constant updates on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube & Google were available to those who had access to such channels and cared to check periodically about what exactly was happening.Soon these gentlemen & ladies made a sorry spectacle of themselves after landing up in Cairo. Instead of reporting about developments on the ground they became the news themselves and ended up whining,
screaming & tweeting about how they were being harassed, followed, arrested, threatened etc., etc.,. Ostensibly the only one to have been spared such treatment was the outrageous Ms. Barkha Dutt, who soldiers on thanks to the UPA & Prannoy James Roy. She then busied herself going sight-seeing all over Cairo, filing dispatches by selectively cutting & pasting the
considerable volume of material already available on the Egypt affair & pretending that she was arranging to get an exclusive interview of Uncle Hosni as soon as Christiane Amanpour had finished with him. Unfortunately, despite her vocal championing of the Revolutionary Kashmir Stone-Pelters’ Association, she couldn’t get any of the folks in Tahrir Square to chuck even a couple of such ‘missiles’ generally her way which could then lead to dramatic coverage about the ‘brave & intrepid Barkha Dutt reporting from the scene of action despite grave threats to her life (i.e. mortal danger)’.
Having lost a great deal of face vis-a-vis her competitors who could triumphantly talk about being followed, harassed and even imprisoned, she & her boss planned to best them the next time around. Soon Libya happened & despite NDTV‘s target audience apparently having even less interest in Libyan affairs than in that of Egypt, she landed up with a team in Egypt again and decided, apparently on the spur-of-the-moment, to venture forth into ‘liberated’ Libya. This became all the more necessary to upstage the competition which had landed up too, in an effort to beam live reports from the ‘scene of action’.
She then apparently set forth in vehicles hired in Egypt across the Egypt – Libya border, which is long & largely porous at the best of times. Thousands of Libyans & Egyptians, apparently go across it daily, mostly to earn their daily bread in a neighbouring country, without bothering in the least about niceties like checkpoints, entry permits or Visas. However when Ms. Dutt went across this virtually unmanned border, it was projected as an extremely brave & hazardous move to the target audience, generally clueless about what the ground realities at that point in that part of the world were (if they were aware, they wouldn’t have been tuning into NDTV’s dispatches anyway for regular updates). Soon, this became a full-blown story about Ms. Dutt’s adventures in ‘extremely dangerous’ territory, while she prattled & tweeted her way across miles & miles of largely deserted countryside. The hordes of folks who follow her on Twitter apparently got into paroxysms of anxiety & delight alternately, exhorting her through tweets to take care, stay in touch & even come back to keep ‘life & limbs intact’. Any stragglers she may have come across in the largely deserted countryside became ‘fighters & revolutionaries of a liberated Libya’ who were egged on to voice their ‘views’ about the ‘momentous change’ happening and about Gaddafi’s repressive regime among other things.
NDTV apparently fashioned a full-length feature out of the ‘Adventures of Barkha Dutt’ which played out to their prime-time audience. The competition was thus upstaged and in a paradigm shift, the correspondent became the centre of attraction and the news herself. The synergies between championship cricket, soap, Bollywood & ‘breaking news’ which are the four pillars on which most news channels in India survive and even thrive on thus got greatly reinforced and the target audience went to bed happy after being riveted by this latest edition of ‘news soap’, Bollywood style.
- Barkha Dutt Comics SAGA!! (swathipradeepworld.wordpress.com)
- To the people of Egypt: Mubarak ho! (snshenoy.wordpress.com)
- Cabinet Posts fixed By Radia,Tata,Reliance? (ramanan50.wordpress.com)
- The Case Against Barkha Dutt and the Management of NDTV India (mitraroger.wordpress.com)