Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Advocating for the Devil.

Quite some time back, I had read a book titled India Unbound by Mr. Gurucharan Das. There, the author vehemently supports the concept of free economy and argues in favour of competition based market. I just adored the book, as it is one book, which says exactly what I believe in, and in exact words as I would have ever wanted to say. I must thank my friend for gifting me such a lovely book (though it was me who shamelessly indicated I wanted this book, if a book was what my gift would be).

Well, this book is not what I want to write about today. This topic came to my mind as I was noticing the healthy change in the number of intellectually sound programs a few news based channels have come up with. And all this must be attributed to the central theme of the book: competition based market. Since the advent of IBN Live (collaborated with CNN) and Times Now (collaborated with Reuters) on the scene, the quality in general of all the English based news channels, and the one-to-one interview based programs in particualr, have risen drastically.

There are a plethora of really entertaining as well as intellectually stimulating programs that come on these two channels, not to forget CNBC and Aawaz (both belonging to IBN Live group) and NDTV 24/7 and NDTV Profit(belonging to NDTV network). With fierce competiton to grab the widest viewership, thankfully these channels are now turning to the difficult and appreciation worthy intellectual creativity and not the easier and ridiculous gimmicks of the sort being practised by the Hindi channels like Star News and AajTak.

There are so many programs on these channels these days, that it sometimes becomes an issue which one to watch and which one to miss. I particularly like a few programs on NDTV 24/7, NDTV Profit, CNBC and IBN Live.

While NDTV Profit and CNBC are competitors in the financial segement, NDTV 24/7 and IBN Live are fighting it out in the general news based category. I must admit that almost all the programs on NDTV Profit and CNBC are worth watching, while CNBC is undisputed leader in market analysis and micro economic details, NDTV Profit is designed to cater a wider viewer base with macro economic details, and broader program spectrum. They don't frequently use the economic jargons and hence are understandable even to the lay men, while CNBC is for highly market oriented people. I enjoy both almost equally.

The difference comes in the general news segment. Before the advent of IBN Live, NDTV 24/7 was the sole superpower in the English news segment, and hence, over a period of time, their quality had become stagnant, if not detoriated. The arrival of IBN Live changed the whole scene. Like any fresh blood, this channel started with full vigour, and with it's rich program content, radically different presentation style and a set of good journalists soon caught up in the race and made news watching enjoyable. All credit must be given to the team of Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai, for he introduced a set of really enjoyable interview based programs like Being( to counter NDTV's Walk the Talk) and Devil's Advocate and a few discussion oriented programs like Face the Nation (to counter NDTV's the Big Fight).

All these programs with the exception of Devil's Advocate, were mostly to balance the viewership of NDTV, as they had their own blockbusters in these categories. But, it was Devil's Advocate that has made the biggest difference.

I am a regualr follower of this interview based program. It is one of the many one to one interview programs that I make a point to watch, the reason being the aggression and the home work of the interviewer Mr. Karan Thapar. I always was a regular viewer of Karan Thapar's interviews when they initally used to come on Doordarshan, later on BBC, NDTV and CNBC. I have always maintained that he is arguably the most well prepared interviewer I have seen. What I admire in him is his stern and aggresive approach, his skill to make sure not a single question is unanswered, and to rephrase the questions and their replies so that he viewers get the interviewee's point clearly.

This program too, started with the same efficiency. It was a tad more aggresive as the name Devil's Advocate suggested. His interviews with Mr. Parvez Musharraf, P. Chidambram, Pranav Mukharjee, Kamal Nath, Arjun Singh and many more have now become classics. But over the period of time, he seems to have lost the edge. In his zeal of aggresion, he has now begun to go over the board and watching the program is no longer fun. He does not allow the interviewee to finish a single answer, plainly refuses to take their viewpoint and almost forces them to accept his own. No body doubts his preparation and his data, but he refuses to let the interviewees put their point. These days his interviews appear like a show where the interviewee has been called to be insulted by the interviewer. A lot of recent episodes have been disastrous, a few really ugly.

Earlier, it used to be the inexplicable questions that would catch the interviewees off guard and upset them, but now it's mostly the continous annoyance of not getting a chance to speak and regualr pestering that upset them. The recent interviews of P. Chidambram, Arun Shourie, Sunil
Mittal would prove my point. The interview of the outspoken and arrogant Rahul Bajaj was a complete disaster, where both had made it literally ugly.

And this is not an exception, there are quite a few programs on IBN Live, which seem to have lost their vision. I think this comes naturally with immense success. Each phase of vibrancy is replaced by a phase of lull and stagnancy. I hope Rajdeep Sardesai and Karan Thapar too, are aware. If they are, then I know things would soon be fine, else they must read India Unbound.


Anonymous said...

nice analysis...:) keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Well I havnt seen this pgm..time crises..just wondering..who is the interviewer in Devil's Advocate...if its Mr Rajdeep..then its quite justified..he belongs to the class..journalism of pulling legs..Prabhu Chawla is another in this category. I believe Karan Thapar, Prannoy Roy...are still good. Wish they maintain the standard.