Exclusive on TV news channels: The story of two rain-drenched Chennais which do not exist

How Kalaignar and Jaya News reported on Tamil Nadu floods to serve political agendas
Flix Monday, November 16, 2015 - 16:11

It is a tale of two cities which exist not in reality, but only on two television news channels in Tamil Nadu. Several parts of Tamil Nadu and the city of Chennai have been flooded and life has indeed come to standstill, claiming at least 60 lives. But driven by political agendas, the coverage in two TV news channels in the state were so biased that it would have been laughable if not for how serious a breach of media ethics they were.

No prizes for guessing the two TV channels – Kalaignar News and Jaya News.

On the Karunanidhi-family-owned Kalaignar News, TN was on the brink of an apocalypse. It was the end of days, and no one could save us. Visuals of dead bodies and flooded areas were being shown on loop against grim, sad background music.

A news-anchor speaks in a gloomy voice, and talks about cities and towns abandoned by the government machinery leaving people to fend for themselves. Every other sentence has something about the rain bringing tears to the people of Chennai. There are a lot of people talking about their problems while the anchor or reporter says, “This government has done nothing. People of Tamil Nadu are fighting rain and a tear, the government is sleeping.”

"Cuddalore suffered under tsunami, floods and cyclones. But the 'dead' villages are waiting for government to fulfill its promise that they will get relief," goes the voiceover on Kalaignar News.

If the whole screen is filled with water and tears on Kalaignar News, the world was one happy place if Jaya News, the TV channel linked to the ruling AIADMK.

If this channel is to be believed, officials are overseeing relief in every nook and corner of the state and people cannot stop thanking the government enough. And the tone of the anchor suggests that people are over reacting to a slight drizzle. The only visuals shown are of leaders like O Paneerselvam overseeing relief work or when machines and pumps are being used to clear the damage and water. The bulletins are filled with reports of relief measures undertaken in each district along with frequent reminders that the government has declared holidays. That is how understated the city’s problems are, is the hint.

“What Jaya TV is doing is much worse I would say. They claimed that people are thanking the government. This is the age of social media and messaging platforms. Why do they think anyone will believe them?” a senior editor working with a Tamil news channel said. However, the people of Tamil Nadu are now conditioned to expect biased news from channels linked to political parties.

News channels like Puthiya Thalamurai and Thanthi TV are however seen to be reporting news fairly impartially.

Amidst the extremes conjured up by the two rival channels on account of political allegiances and strategies, there is no respect for the dignity of the people who are inconvenienced. With both channels having kept up such tactics for a while now, people are aware enough to expect this. But is it too much to ask for TV channels to set aside their political agendas during a natural calamity? 


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