Being too quick to come to conclusions is never a good idea. If a list was compiled of the things that can go wrong, it would have only one entry: Everything. The reporting by TV media and some parts of Hindi print media on what was initially a simple case of suicide of an actor soon turned into a display of overenthusiastic reporters and anchors with a predetermined idea of who is guilty. Guilty of specifically what is beyond their ambit or agenda.
There are two possibilities here; either this section of the media is under pressure to give minimal or no space to the rising COVID cases (now around 1 lakh/day) or a 23.9% contraction in economy or a flawed investigation into the Delhi Riots cases. An obvious inference of this possibility is that the whole shenanigan around Rhea Chakraborty is a distraction.
A second possibility is that this section of the media truly believes that her victimization is both in public interest and what the public is interested in. In either case, it must commit to undertaking heavy introspection on what its role is and what it owes to its consumers.
Regulation over news broadcasting is weak and underenforced. The Press Council of India, though a statutory body, rarely invokes its powers and The Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards by the self-regulatory body News Broadcasters Association is frequently ignored.
It is in this context of regulatory absence that reporters indulging in crass voyeurism without sensitivity, or respect for privacy, get away.
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Through Chakraborty’s villianization and harassment, the Indian viewer has found an opportunity to reinforce their regressive beliefs on how an Indian woman must behave. The alacrity with which news anchors invented imaginary motives and censured her past actions is symptomatic of the desire by a misogynist society to control its women.
While dumbed down news may be a comfortable place to be in, this comfort often turns into collusion. Viewers of this spectacle of pointlessness are complicit as it is their viewership which encourages these media houses to do more of what they are doing; in the hope of better TRPs and more power to negotiate better advertising rates.
It goes without doubt that television- famously a ‘visual medium’- rarely provides the depth of analysis derived from reading. Reading- admittedly an incredibly lonely endeavour- has the ability to provide contextual information essential to understand a story. The television, meanwhile, is an inherently shallow and ephemeral medium that requires no effort to be consumed.
Breaking away from the world of loud anchors, voyeurist reporters and partisan debates is easier than it sounds. Shut it off and go read.
Edit: The opening statement of this editorial originally read, “Being too quick to come to conclusions is never a good idea. If a list was compiled of the things that can go wrong, it would have only one entry: Disaster.”