Amid the Narendra Modi government’s ongoing Tiranga drive to mark 75 years of Independence, the chest-thumping by nationalistic anchors has only helped blare out more decibels for television’s latest noisy campaign.
But as these TV channels continue to dedicate show after show to nationalistic pitches, are these telecasts actually catering to issues that matter to the nation? We tracked 10 such “nationalistic” shows on seven TV channels from July 1 to July 31, and found that their flag-waving was little else than a Morbius strip of dogwhistles, communal agendas and pro-government narratives on screen.
The media helps to strengthen a sovereign country by reporting on its building blocks, which could range from health and education to infrastructure and natural resources. Tracking these shows last month, we classified them under seven categories – communal; anti-opposition; pro-government; education, healthcare and infrastructure; social welfare and employment; environment and natural disasters; and others.
Let’s take a look at the data.
News 18 India’s Desh Nahi Jhukne Denge
There were 22 telecasts of the Aman Chopra show at 8 pm last month, and of these, 15 were dedicated to communal narratives while seven focussed on bashing the opposition on issues such as the protests in the parliament and the questioning of Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi by the Enforcement Directorate.
In on the arrests of PFI members in Bihar for alleged “anti-India” activities, Chopra asked if only 25 years are left for “India to become an Islamic nation”. On discussing controversial remarks by a man linked to the Ajmer shrine, the anchor asked what should be the punishment for insulting Hindu deities, comparing it to the killing of Udaipur tailor Kanhaiyyalal for his remarks against Prophet Muhammad.
Republic Bharat’s Poochhta Hai Bharat
Of the 26 shows anchored by Aishwarya Kapoor, 12 were along communal lines while 10 were pitched against the opposition. Three broadcasts hailed the government while another was on the Amarnath cloudburst.
With so many Hindu-Muslim debates, tickers such as “whose plan is direct jihad?” were pitched as questions of the nation by the producers.
Times Now Navbharat’s Rashtravad
Sushant Sinha dedicated two shows to the GST hike and the Indian economy, but even these were spent questioning the opposition’s “lies” despite the government’s alleged good performance. Of the 29 shows in July, nine were framed against the opposition while 16 revolved around communal lines.
The anchor of the show, which literally means nationalism, displayed a phenomenal ability to attack the opposition – with headlines such as “will the opposition defeat PM Narendra Modi with lies?”, “Modi’s policies are popular in the entire world” and “opposition’s agenda fails in front of Modinomics?”.
Zee News’s Deshhit
The title translates to national interest but of the 25 shows hosted by Aditi Tyagi last month, 16 were framed along communal lines, two targeted the opposition and three hailed the government. Two episodes dissected the Sri Lanka crisis while another discussed the Sidhu Moosewala murder.
Despite the show having reports on multiple issues in each episode, unemployment, inflation or education did not feature as an issue. Last month, the show had just one five-minute update on the new all-weather shelters announced for the BSF. We have added this segment to the infrastructure category.
Covering the Bihar police’s arrest of people with PFI links, the anchor claimed there are “factories producing jihadis” in various cities while trying to argue that the PFI is making “human missiles”.
Republic Bharat’s Ye Bharat Ki Baat Hai
Syed Suhail’s show dedicated 19 of the 30 July broadcasts to communal issues, six to explain the shortcomings of the opposition, and five to praise the Yogi Adityanath or Narendra Modi governments.
This was all the talk about India, with tickers such as the “opposition ‘clean bowled’ in front of Yogi”.
ABP News’s India Chahta hai
Of the 20 “India wants” shows hosted by Sumit Awasthi in July, two questioned the opposition, four sang praises of the BJP government while 12 revolved around communal themes.
To Awasthi’s credit, the show did cover the impact of excessive rainfall in four episodes while one had a segment on hooch deaths in Gujarat. There was another segment on a woman giving birth outside Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital.
However, the dog whistles were not entirely absent. On a show on alleged smuggling of cows around Eid-ul-Adha, Awasthi introduced the broadcast saying cows are always under threat during the Muslim festival. His opinion poll considered the death penalty to those smuggling the bovine and those allegedly helping such people.
Awasthi’s shows have multiple segments. Where they deal with a single subject, we have categorised all segments together. Where a segment tackles a different topic than the other segments, we have counted the segments separately. For example, if a show has one communal segment and another on healthcare, we have listed them in two categories.
Times Now’s India Upfront
Of 16 debates moderated by Rahul Shivshankar and Swati Joshi at 8 pm, nine were framed along communal lines, six bashed the opposition while one discussed the GST hike. The episode on GST as well as another comparing the Sri Lankan economy to India’s seemed fair with objective presentation of facts by the anchor Joshi.
One of the debates was a 15-minute segment. The main piece ran into 40 minutes and was about “”. For clarity, we have reflected the segment on the economy as a separate dataset.
India Today’s India First
Of 15 telecasts hosted by Gaurav Sawant, religious tensions made it to eight while two were dedicated to the Sri Lanka crisis. Three episodes questioned the opposition while one talked about rising tension between the US and China.
There was an episode on the cloudburst in Amarnath that left 16 people dead.
News Nation’s Rashtramev Jayate
Of the 31 shows in July, 17 focussed on Hindu-Muslim issues. Since each episode covers multiple topics, there were several segments on conspiracy theories about aliens – these got more airtime than health, education or jobs.
The nation alone triumphs, the title of the show, hosted by Peenaz Tyagi at 8 pm, would have you believe.
In 17 episodes, there were segments on natural disasters in Mumbai, Amarnath and Gujarat while five episodes were dedicated to targeting the opposition and one hailing the government.
The show covers multiple topics each day and we have counted the segments on education, environment, natural disasters and healthcare separately. If on a show focused on communal issues also has a segment about natural disasters or floods, we have listed them under separate categories.
Times Now Navbharat’s Opinion India Ka
Of the 20 shows hosted by Meenakshi Kandwal at 10 pm in July, eight pertained to religious tensions while four were linked to social welfare; three dealt with education and infrastructure. Two episodes hailed the government while two others discussed the mining mafia in Haryana.
Despite tensions along the borders with China, there was no full-fledged debate on the issue, with the focus always being on the enemy within. No points for guessing who that is.
Research assistance by Devansh Mittal, Kabir Cohen, Keshav Pranshukla, Manan Shivhare, Faris Kallayi, Taif Altaf.