Aaj Tak


On 17th January 2020, Miranda House hosted India Today’s Campus Face-off, which took a controversial turn after some students started protesting.

On 17th January 2020, India Today’s Rajdeep Sardesai and Aaj Tak’s Anjana Om Kashyap came to Miranda House for an edition of their show Campus Face-off. Campus Face-off is a special program where the anchors invite speakers from major parties, who debate and are questioned by the student audience. In Miranda House, they invited representatives from the three major parties of Delhi- Charu Pragya,  Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Radhika Khera, Indian National Congress (INC) and Atishi Marlena, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The anchors, Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai and Ms. Anjana Om Kashyap, conducted an informal session for 30 minutes before the taping, while waiting for the representatives of the parties to arrive. The anchors were asked questions on the current political scenario. When asked about the pressure on media, Ms. Kashyap replied, “Everybody’s perception of how news is being presented is different. We’ve become a very politically polarized country right now.” Rajdeep Sardesai also used this time to promote his new book How Modi Won India in 2019.

While the debate was to be on the issue of “Women Safety, Judgement on Nirbhaya Case, and other issues” in the face of upcoming elections, the panelists also discussed various other issues too, such as Kashmir, the violence in student campuses, economy and unemployment, and the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act-National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Mid-taping, a group of students stood up in the top-left corner of the room, and started silently protesting by holding up posters questioning police brutality, CAA-NRC, internet shutdowns, state of Kashmir, and such ongoing issues. The protestors, who were silent initially, started chanting, “Shame, Shame, Shame” on a comment made by the BJP representative denying the existence of the NRC. When the protestors began sloganeering, Mr. Sardesai asked them to come to the podium, and express themselves. The students expressed their discomfort at the suggestion saying that they stood as a collective, and asking one of them to represent them all would make that representative vulnerable to being targeted.

The protestors then moved to the centre of the room, near the podium, and began sloganeering again. A Kashmiri student then took to the podium and addressed the crowd in a very emotionally charged speech. “Do you know what is AFSPA? What about it’s victims? We are raped. Understand this…  I am not against them (pointing to the panelists). I am against you all (pointing to the crowd). Shame on you… Fuck you. Fuck you sir. Fuck you three also.”

At this, Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai asked them to be removed from the taping, “Madam, you are allowed to speak your views, but you cannot hijack the program.” The Congress representative, then, came and stood with the protesting students.

“The face-off that took place yesterday at the Campus darkened the face of any form of dissent, dialogue, and debate that Miranda has known in the history of its existence. Yes, the anchors allowed questions, but what they also did was make the entire engagement futile…  In the midst of it all, what actually suffered a setback was the culture of radical politics that Miranda prides itself on. The complacency, privilege and comfortable applause of the audiences stood out. The very audience that shamed and policed the tones of the voices of dissent in Miranda, never once questioned the nature of the ongoing debate and their lack of discussion on issues of the marginalized communities. The ones that gathered spine enough to register their protest on a platform as major as this have been let down. The culture of Miranda hangs its head in shame and silence. To begin with, it never was inclusive and ‘woke’ enough to accommodate the marginalized,” said a statement released by the Instagram handle, @mh_studentscollective.

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What went wrong when India Today came to campus: A trajectory of events.

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Anshula, a student present at the taping, said “ Rajdeep Sir, according to me, handled it professionally and asked them to protest silently if they want to. He asked them not to hijack the mic, saying there were other people also waiting to raise their concerns. I, too, support the cause, but feel like they could have used the platform better. They raised valid concerns and questions which are important to all of us, but using foul language invalidates the cause.”

The taping went on for more than two hours and ended around six in the evening.

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

Satviki Sanjay

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While the TV news in India frequently fails in providing relevant information to the citizens and rather becomes an arena for incessant shouting, it also operates in subtler ways. The mere language of headlines, hashtags and names of shows should raise eyebrows.

American linguist and philosopher, Noam Chomsky, theorised the ‘propaganda model’ of the mass media in his book Manufacturing Consent, wherein he talked about five filters of the media: ownership, advertising, sources, flak, and creation of a common enemy. In a nutshell, media institutions are part of big conglomerates who sell their products to advertisers, and whose sources of information are also the elites; those who oppose these elite interests face flak from the system, while a common ideological enemy is created to spread propaganda.

Yet, it doesn’t take a renowned philosopher to observe elements of this model operating on a daily basis; most Indian news shows seem to be following it to near perfection in some or the other way.

Those dramatic headlines coupled with theatrical music and imagery need to only be slightly observed to understand the suggestive undertones of the programmes. Not only biases, but provocation can also be seen. Sentimental and emotive elements are consciously used to shape narratives and capture viewers. News edges closer to the genre of entertainment. Apart from the more conspicuous displays of these elements as seen in the debates and the role of star-anchors, much subtler mechanisms also seem to be at play – headlines, hashtags, and even the names of the shows are culpable.

The most visible examples of this can be seen during critical situations. Since Thursday, following the Pulwama attack, news channels focused almost exclusively on the incident – and rightly so. Yet, the gravity of the situation was used by the channels to draw in audiences with their theatrics. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with drawing audiences, because that’s what news channels literally run on, but the problem arises when the techniques used for this purpose pose harms.

For instance, consider the headlines during the 9 P.M. Broadcast of Aaj Tak on Thursday – “Ye hamla nahi, jang ka ailaan hai” (It’s not an attack, it’s a proclamation of war), “Surgical strike nahi, seedha prahaar hi raasta?” (Not surgical strike, but a direct attack is the solution?). During situations like these, when emotions of the public run high and a sense of frustration surrounds the masses, the responsibility of providing a calm and measured coverage of the news lies with the media to an even greater extent, especially on widely-watched channels like Aaj Tak. Of course, a sense of anger was present in the public. But by using provocative headlines – those that hint towards a call for war – these news shows not only fuel the fire but also send out a wrong message. Similar headlines were seen in Friday’s ‘DNA’ show on Zee News.

News shows often use problematic headlines and tickers.
News shows often use problematic headlines and tickers. Image Credits: YouTube

Be it ex-servicemen, defence experts, or even many common people, there exists a recognition that war isn’t a joke. Yet it makes for good TV, doesn’t it? The severity of a war, the appeal for revenge, the impending danger – all of it draws the audience. Instead of responsibly analysing the situation and, in fact, making an appeal to the viewers to maintain calm and let the concerned authorities take the necessary steps, such programming tries to capitalise on the emotion to attract audiences by stoking the fire. Drawing in viewers also means pulling in more advertisers. That’s just one example of how the filters operate. Yet, these instances aren’t limited to the coverage of emergency situations.

In fact, the mere usage of hashtags in everyday programming points to a bigger picture. Hashtags trend on Twitter, giving news channels an idea of what type of news pieces would sell. Further, this would allow them to focus more strongly on populist topics, which can potentially sideline some crucial but less market-friendly issues. The style and substance of the news shows is also reflected in the popularity of these hashtags; if a particular style of news attracts more tweets, channels will have greater incentive to keep going with that style.

Furthermore, the language of hashtags is also important. A simple YouTube search entry of “Republic TV debate” presents a multitude of clips of Arnab Goswami’s primetime debate show. Every video thumbnail has a hashtag in it. ‘#RahulFakeNews’, ‘#RepublicBharatVsAMU’, ‘#CongAttacksHindus’, ‘#RahulLieCaught’, ‘#UnstableAlliance’, ‘#ModiVsWho’ – these are just some of the many hashtags that invite questions. The hashtags aren’t only reflective of a singular narrative but also give an idea on the type of tweets they’ll invite. Obviously, it won’t be in the show’s interest to display tweets that go against the narrative it wants to portray. Thus, very selective tweets are displayed, giving an impression to the viewers that what they’re watching is correct and supported by the public opinion as well.

The use of hashtags in debate shows also invites questions. Image Credits: YouTube
The use of hashtags in debate shows also invites questions. Image Credits: YouTube

Sensational issues are picked by many channels. CNN-News18’s weekly 10 P.M. show- ‘The Right Stand’ regularly focuses almost exclusively on issues having a religious angle.

Even the names of these shows should be inspected. Halla Bol, Takkar, and Dangal are also, in fact, names of action movies, almost as if the shows are meant to be a platform for speakers to brawl over issues; ‘Bhai vs Bhai’ and ‘The Great Debate Show’ seem to have an entertainment element inherently attached to them; ‘Arnab Goswami on the Debate @ 9’ puts more emphasis on the anchor than the news.

Obviously, it’s not possible to deconstruct and analyse every debate in a single piece and even these examples are selective. There are innumerable debates that may be deconstructed and analysed, but the aforementioned selective examples are reflective of a larger trend. A look at the substance of these debates glaringly points towards the problems in the media. But the point is- even inconspicuous elements like hashtags and headlines are at play. So, what does the language of news shows tell us? Bias, sensationalism, and irresponsibility, for a start.

Yet, it doesn’t mean that all’s bad. Even these shows sometimes pick real issues and do a good job covering and analysing them. Like the Editor-in-Chief of The Indian Express, Raj Kamal Jha said, “Good journalism is, in fact, growing; it’s just that bad journalism makes a lot more noise.”

Feature Image Credits: Newslaundry


Prateek Pankaj

[email protected]

Comprising of Mrs, Anjana Om Kashyap, Mr. Vikram Chandra, and Mr. Saurabh Dwivedi, the panel discussing ‘Lok Sabha Elections: Mahakumbh of Indian Journalism’ was subjected to some pressing and thought-provoking questions at the Q&A session at St. Stephen’s College on 23rd January.

Moderated by Dr. Amna Mirza, Associate Professor at the University of Delhi (DU), the panel first invited Mrs. Anjana Om Kashyap, Executive Editor at Aaj Tak, to speak about television rating points (TRPs) and political bias in journalism, among other issues. After Mrs. Kashyap’s presentation, Mr. Vikram Chandra-Founder, Editorji Technologies, and Former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NDTV– shared his insight on the changing face of journalism and transmission of news, while emphasising a solution through his news app Editorji. Mr. Saurabh Dwivedi, Founding Editor of The Lallantop, was subsequently started on a rather humorous note, and then delved into rural issues which have often been overlooked by mainstream media.

In the Q&A session, students from various colleges raised a plethora of socially and politically charged questions for the panellists. On being questioned by Honey, a Kirori Mal College student, about the intervention and regulation of news broadcasted by mass media channels like Aaj Tak by their top advertisement-providers that were companies like Patanjali, Mrs. Kashyap stated, “Aapka sawaal mujhe out kar gaya (Your question has stumped me).” She maintained that news channels had to work the best from within the system. “News is what someone wants to suppress; rest is all advertisement,” she said. Mr. Chandra and Mr. Dwivedi further added that no advertiser directly called shots on the content of reputed news channels.

The second part of Honey’s question dealt with representation in the newsrooms. To this, Mr. Dwivedi responded by highlighting the lack of representation of journalists, especially from areas like Manipur and Kashmir. In the same breath, he added that journalists tended to overlook caste and socio-economic backgrounds during recruitment, which might be the reason for such disparities in number.

“Kaunsa mudda, kiska mudda, woh koi nahi poochta (Which issue it is, whose issue it is- nobody asks that),”said Shorya, a student from the PWD category, emphasising how national issues do not matter much to common people, for ground-level issues like the absence of ramps in colleges for PWD students are not even covered by mainstream media. His concerns evoked a massive emotional response not only among the panellists but the audience as well. While no one from the panel was able to offer a concrete solution, they all agreed to his concerns, offering to help him run a Twitter campaign for the same.

The next question raised to baffle the panellists was about Kashmir. A student asked the panel about why the stories based on Kashmir began with a metaphorical full-stop. In response to the one-line question, Mrs. Kashyap responded with a one-line answer-“…because Kashmir is an ongoing story”. However, all the panellists agreed, without saying much that the sentiments in Kashmir were often different from the versions presented on TV. Mr. Chandra went on to state that certain sections of media should be ashamed of how they had covered Kashmir.

Another student enquired how anonymity could be a useful tool especially in the present-day society where one was easily labelled as an ‘anti-national’ for speaking up against the government. Mr. Chandra responded by saying that the day one feared to speak in a free country, it would not be free at all. Mrs. Kashyap then encouraged the student to not hide behind anonymity and to stand up for her views.

A student from Ramjas College requested Mrs. Kashyap to comment on the alleged misrepresentation of information reported by an Aaj Tak anchor regarding an ABVP rally during Republic Day last year, asking whether the channel should be held responsible for the same. She responded by saying that due action had been taken against the anchor and that Aaj Tak had employed an exclusive fact-checking team to avoid such incidents in the future.

Evidently dissatisfied, the student further followed up by commenting that the anchor in question had also allegedly misreported about a chip being present in the INR2,000 notes post-demonetisation. At this stage, Mrs Kashyap refused to answer, saying that she couldn’t comment on someone else’s behalf. On the other hand, Mr. Dwivedi said that mistakes often happen, and he himself had misrepresented information at times but believed that journalists should own up to such mistakes.

Despite being difficulty they may present in resolution, the need for asking tough questions was recognised and appreciated by all present at the event. As the guests departed, the students applauded and cheered with their ideas regarding journalism-its challenges, economics, and politics- appearing to be stronger.

Feature Image Credits: Leadership Cell, St. Stephen’s College.

Prateek Pankaj
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Sakshi Arora
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