Channel Surf – CNN IBN

CNN IBN’s Face the Nation seemed to have been struck down by a case of chronic headline-itis last night.

As respite from the onslaught of the senses that was the IPL Opening Ceremony, I decided to switch to the news.  Which it seems was not the best idea if you’re planning to give your frayed nerves a rest. Face the Nation on CNN-IBN was discussing the recent case of the 13-year old domestic help rescued in Delhi a couple of days back from the home of her employers, who’d locked her up and gone on a little jaunt to Bangkok.

Since I’ve been following the story, when I switched to last night’s Face the Nation, despite the usual decibel level which the panel discussion is carried on at, I decided to brave it and watch the show. Little did I know that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on what was being said – not because I have Attention Deficit Disorder, but because CNN-IBN had been struck down by a case of chronic headline-itis.

Within a span of 1 minute, the screen which was already split up into 5 panels (four squares with the panelists on one side, and one half dedicated to Sagarika’s frame), changed no fewer than 6 headlines.  It started with the oh-so-politically correct – The ‘Servant’ Debate. Which immediately changed to Maids To Order. Which then changed to Maid Torture Case. Then the producer must have tired of the statements and decided to ask a question instead and changed the headline once again to Domestic Help = Slavery?. Which just when you might have started to ponder on, changed to Employer vs Domestic Help. And then finally to Caste System in the House.


And just in case your brain was indeed quick enough to keep up with the ever-changing headlines, CNN IBN deided to check whether you could keep up with yet another dynamic part of the screen. So, below the panels of the speakers, keeping pace with the various headlines was a changing banner which asked multiple questions and gave you multiple details on the case. It started with the ticker Maid Torture Case which was accompanied by details of the case. Which by the time you’d read halfway through, had already changed into a banner which said Employer vs Domestic Help and carried instances from Paris to India where people have ill-treated or been killed by their help. It’s all the same after all. And just when you’d barely managed to register all the information, Face the Nation decided that Arnab alone mustn’t have the privilege of badgering the nation for an answer. So must they.

Thanks to which, you got to read multiple questions being run across the bottom of the screen alternating under the banners Question of the Day or Vote of the Day. The question of the day kept changing from “Domestic help-employer relations reaching breaking point?” to “Is India’s domestic servant culture akin to slavery” to “Are placement agencies contributing to distrust?” to “Is violence and brutality amongst servants becoming usual?” to “Vote now: Is relationship between domestic help & employer reaching breaking point?” To which I wanted to answer, “No. But your channel’s grammar certainly is.”

And all through this kaleidoscope of headlines, the panel kept discussing the many matters at hand. The panelists included Ravi Kant – Chief Advisor, Shakti Vahini who could be seen shouting despite being put on mute, and then when allowed to be heard said that he didn’t understand why people from West Bengal and Bihar should come to Delhi and wash utensils, they should instead be given opportunities there. (I’m assuming he didn’t mean opportunities to wash utensils in their own states. He didn’t clarify though, and by then my brain had started turning to mush). He also called the migration of people from outside Delhi into the state ‘colonial’ and said it was ‘organised crime’. Go figure. There was a Vir Kashyap of the strangely named who didn’t say much of worth. There was Sri Ram Khanna who said that there’s a certain kind of economic security which these under-age kids receive from a job, and while it is the obligation of the state to create rights for children, it is better that they work somewhere and get regular meals and shelter than stay hungry and homeless in their villages. Radhika Chopra, Reader, Sociology, DU was the only voice of reason who pointed out that while the state does need to protect its children, the solution lies in our homes which should be made places of care and in which we can look after our domestic help.

Of course, by the time you’d survived the maze of multiple headlines and tickers and competed in the test of your speed reading and cognitive skills, the panelists could have said anything and you would not have noticed. I was so distracted by all that was happening on screen, I didn’t even notice Sagarika’s Sixtie’s-style look for the evening. At least we now know that CNN IBN is a democratic place where if you submit a headline or a ticker idea, it will never get vetoed and will somehow or the other be carried by the channel. Good channel to work at for sure. Don’t recommend it for late night viewing though.

And just in case they hadn’t confused you enough with their schizophrenic headline writing, the producer decided to push you over the edge by ending the show with yet another ticker. This time asking you: “What’s your take? Continue the debate or post ur blog on ibnlive”. Sure, right after I gouge my eyes out.

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