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There scrolls digital truth

Calcutta, July 4: Sections of the news media are conspiring, some Facebook fans are fulminating and friendly television studios are licking the Saradha wounds…. What to do to give them this day their daily dose of news?

When in doubt, go direct —and digital.

The Mamata Banerjee government has decided to install digital display boards in the city to convey to people messages or reactions to any incident in an attempt to counter “slander and disinformation”.

The project is expected to be launched with two boards — one on the rooftop of Nabanna and one outside the Calcutta Information Centre near Rabindra Sadan. If the pilot project is deemed successful, such boards could be installed at intersections like Esplanade, Gariahat, Shyambazar and Ultadanga.

The move by the information and cultural affairs department was initiated about a month ago when the chief minister felt the need to develop a “direct communication channel” with the common people.

A clairvoyant decision, as it turned out, considering the fallout of the Tapas Paul tapes and the chief minister’s opinion that a media conspiracy is to blame for the hue and cry.

“The government has to depend on privately owned TV channels and newspapers to communicate its messages. But it has been found that often facts are distorted and people are misled. This is the reason a direct communication channel is required and news display boards can do the trick,” said a senior official.

According to the plan, the boards will display scrolls whenever the chief minister wants to convey a message to the people.

Two types of scrolls are being planned: any information that the chief minister wants to put out in the public domain and the chief minister’s message in case of an emergency or incident.

Since assuming power in Bengal, the chief minister has wanted to develop an “independent” communication channel between the government and the people.

Some TV channels and newspapers associated with the Saradha Group were friendly towards the government but fell on hard times when the cash-collection company collapsed.

The government was keen to take over two channels after the Saradha collapse. “But the rules of Prasar Bharati prevented the government from doing so. No state government can run news channels. So the government had to step back,” said an official.

Another plan was to bring out a daily. The idea was dropped partly because of an opinion that people cannot be forced to buy it.

Officials are pinning their hopes on projections that the digital boards will catch 25-30 lakh eyeballs a day.

But they face a challenge. “The message has to be short and simple to catch the attention of the people on the move…. Normally, our chief minister prefers giving long messages. So, it will be a challenge,” an official said.