The Telegraph
Friday , November 16 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eight debaters were engaged in a passionate verbal battle over whether “Breaking news is breaking up the country” at St. James’ School on November 10. The occasion was the annual ‘Jacobean Vs Xaverian Debate’, organised by the St. James’ School Alumni Association. The Xaverians clinched the trophy with their power-packed arguments against the motion.

While the hosts were represented by Ranjan Roychowdhury, Shashank Shah, Afaan Arshad and Harshvardhan Mehta, the Xaverian team comprised veteran debaters Kunal Sarkar, Arindam Sil, Snehasis Sur and Mayukh Bhadra.

The contention of the Jacobeans was that since the new millennium, 122 news channels in India have had an impact on 600-odd million viewers. But sensationalising news for the sake of higher TRP rating may succeed in grabbing eyeballs at the cost of credibility. It is like a cancer slowly spreading its poison.

“Everybody loves a tamasha. The news channels are exaggerating everything for the sake of a tamasha,” said the Jacobean lead speaker Shah.

His team-mate Arshad added that when a piece of news comes with the tag “breaking news”, all other information gets neglected. “Thus, neutral news is being driven out. We only get to see what corporate honchos and the powerful want us to see,” said Arshad. He cited Narendra Modi’s dig at Shashi Tharoor for having a wife ‘worth’ Rs 50 crore. “That remark was highlighted on all channels. During the same speech, Modi had also enumerated his plans for Gujarat but it was ignored,” he added.

“The youth are being given wrong and biased information. It leads to frustration among them and drives a wedge between states,” chipped in Mehta. Roychowdhury rounded up the host team’s argument with a smattering of humour. He mentioned how once news channels went berserk, giving regular updates about a Bengali actress’ health, including the fact that she had rasgulla for lunch. “We just get mired in stupid arguments,” he added.

A much-stronger defence wanted more substantial arguments. “Our map of India has remained the same despite breaking news. Give one instance where breaking news has actually broken India,” demanded Sur.

He stressed on the responsibility of media and how the real breaking news is the lead story that is splashed both in newspapers and on TV. “Media informs you, it does not break you,” he added.

Sil demanded, “If politicians own the media then how are scams being revealed? How did Robert Vadra land himself in a controversy?”

To Sarkar, the impact of television channels was negligible, accounting for only 0.03 per cent of the population. Around 93 per cent still listen to All India Radio.

“Breaking news may be a source of amusement, a pre-dinner titillation, but it fails to make an impact, let alone break the country,” he claimed. Bhadra fought for full democracy of the fourth estate, despite occasional drawbacks.

The arguments continued for hours, with moderator John Mason inviting the audience to join in. Ultimately the judges, comprising Utpal Chatterjee, Gautam Mohan Chakrabarti and Masud Haq, rested the case in favour of the Xaverians.


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