Of instant talaq, Arnab’s instant coffee and TV news media’s impact claims

It wasn’t the petitioners, lawyers or activists who initiated the fight for #TripleTalaq. Prime-time TV news channels claim impact.

ByCherry Agarwal
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Of instant talaq, Arnab’s instant coffee and TV news media’s impact claims
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After much ado, when the five-judge Supreme Court constitution bench comprising Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, UU Lalit, Kurian Joseph, S Abdul Nazeer and Chief Justice JS Khehar struck down the practice of instant talaq in a 3-2 split verdict, it not only marked the victory of women’s rights and gender equality activists but also flagged off a coverage competition between several TV news outlets.

According to leading English news channels, who provided wall-to-wall coverage for the landmark verdict delivered by the senior most judges of the apex court, it wasn’t the petitioners, activists or the lawyers who got the campaign going. Rather, it was news channels like Times Now, Republic TV and CNN-News18 where the campaign actually took shape. 

While Times Now claimed credits for ending triple talaq through a screen packed with tickers and changing tiles, RepublicTV and CNN-News18 weren’t far behind. 

While the former announced “Mega Times Now Mega Campaign Victory” and used tickers such as “Times Now Campaign #TripleTalaqEnds”, “Campaign that took shape here” and “Times Now RELENTLESS COVERAGE FORCED CHANGE”, Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV ran with “Campaign ensures #TripleTalaqOver”, “CAMPAIGN WINS, #TripleTalaqOver” and “Triple Talaq After Right to Pray” and CNN-News18 used “TALAQ TO TRIPLE TALAQ, RELENTLESS CAMPAIGN IMPACT”.

Apart from those mentioned above, prime-time “news” debates covering triple talaq on Tuesday also included channels such as NDTV and India Today. However, unlike RepublicTVTimes Now and CNN-News18, they stopped short of claiming impact for the struggle faced by petitioners such as Shayara Bano.

Rahul Shivshankar and Arnab Goswami, nevertheless, carried on undeterred. While Shivshankar’s India Upfront claimed to be the “first to confront patriarchs” in the context of triple talaq (having conducted over “40 debates over three years”), Goswami’s The Debate claimed credits for the historic judgement as well as the “crumbling of a 400-year-old temple tradition” which allowed women to enter Haji Ali. 


Republic TV
 gloated using other text tiles such as “WE FOUGHT AGAINST TRIPLE TALAQ” and “#TripleTalaqOver: A Republic TV Campaign”.

But it wasn’t just TV news outlets’ race to claim “impact” that caught Newslaundry’s attention. 

Apart from impact mongering, TV news channels seemed to be competing to host the largest number of panelists at one go. 

While NDTV hosted three panelists, CNN-News18 five, India Today had six, Times Now hosted seven, it was Arnab Goswami who outbid them all as he addressed a ten- member during his show, The Debate. While it was easier for CNN-News18India Today and Times Now to show off the strength of their respective panels in one screen, Republic TV’s 10-member panel looked like potshots placed on a chessboard.

Nevertheless, one panelist, in particular, seemed to be extremely popular across shows and channels—Asaduddin Owaisi, a three-time Member of Parliament and president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. While super-packed TV news panels included ministers, lawyers and women affected by triple talaq, Owaisi seems to have gotten more footage than any other. Perhaps so because while he dared Modi from the Times Now panel, he compared the triple talaq judgement to the opening of  a “Pandora’s box” after moving to India Today‘s. 

And he continued hopping as he participated in panels ranging from Rajdeep Sardesai’s in India Today to CNN-News18’s as well as Times Now!

When panelists can seek fame, how could Hindi news channels stay put. Despite the extensive news coverage by leading English news channels fighting to trend on Twitter, there was, one Hindi channel that seemed to potentially threaten to win the Twitter trend battle with its latest ticker—“Surgical strike on triple talaq”. It was none other than ZeeNews.

But alas the Twitter-gods had something else in mind as #MisinformedTimesNow began doing the rounds.

While several news channels had incorrectly broken the story “SC upholds triple talaq” on social media (crying wolf even before the five-judge bench could announce the complete #TripleTalaqVerdict), the tweeples only seem to have gone after Times Now. 

Apart from the coverage given to this landmark judgement by prime-time news shows on Tuesday, it was interesting to note the actual content of what was being discussed. While panelists on the show expressed their perspectives on the matter, the hosts couldn’t help themselves but jump in with their own opinions.

Holding the flag high as ever was Goswami who compared instant talaq to instant coffee and said, “People are arguing that SC has only banned ‘instant’ Triple Talaq as if it’s instant coffee.” 

While CNN-News18’s Bhupendra Chaubey gave Muslims their next to-do steps.

Nevertheless, it looked too tough for “impact-mongering” leading English news channels to move away from preaching towards discussion and analysis. While Chaubey did try to raise the question of political significance of the triple talaq for the BJP as he questioned Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Law Minister, (which Prasad politely declined to answer), unfortunately, it went no further. Not even delving into the reasons given by the two dissenting judges, Justice Abdul Nazeer and India’s Chief Justice JS Khehar, for upholding the practice. 

The author can be contacted on Twitter at @quilledwords.

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