The promo suggested that Roja had acted in pornographic films in her past

TV9 Telugus obnoxious promo of MLA Rojas interview is a step too farScreenshot from video
Blog Sensationalism Tuesday, April 05, 2016 - 17:54

We know catching eyeballs in a world overflowing with content is serious business. 

But the line between engaging and sensationalist content hasn’t shifted all that much, and it shouldn’t, especially for a mainstream television news channel like TV9 Telugu.

In the first week of April, the channel ran promotions for the programme Mukha Mukhi, an interview with actress and YSR Congress MLA RK Roja. The promotion which ran along the lines of the following tweet highlighted one question posed to the actor.

"#Roja acted in blue films?" asked the promo on TV and on social media.

Roja, has been in the news recently because of the controversy over her suspension from the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. 

So, a television interview that would speak about Roja’s alleged past, would be a significant move away from the issues currently in the news. And even if Roja had acted in pornography earlier in her life, that did not add anything either way to the current political controversy in which she is embroiled.

When the interview was telecast on Sunday, however, things got even murkier. It turned out that the key 'revelation' that TV9 had been selling their interview on, wasn’t even a revelation.

In the interview, the anchor, Jaffar Babu, “repeats” an allegation that was apparently originally “made by Minister Pitala Sujata”, and asks Roja if she ever acted in “blue films”. Roja is outraged and asks Jaffar why he is speaking like a TDP man. “People accuse me based on my caste, and now they are also getting involved in character assassination. All this to defame me in public,” she says.

The interviewer then changes tack and asks Roja how she, coming from a “reputed family”, feels about such allegations. To which Roja says, “It is very hard for me to digest and I feel like dying.” She lists out the professions of her husband (“number one director”), father (sound engineer in Saradhi studio) and mother (principal, Narsing College), and says that it is insulting for people to make such allegations against her.

That is the sum of the material in the interview on her alleged “sordid” past in pornography. Yet, TV9 chose to play up this one question in all of its promos. And they played it up as if the MLA had answered the question in the positive inter-cutting it with footage from other portions of interview. 

News reporting without doubt has taken on a slight air of exaggeration. But to craft an entire series of promotions on an unproven allegation that has reached media ears only through hearsay, even if the source of that is a politician, is blatantly reckless journalism. That they constantly harped on “blue films”, as if there could be no greater sin for a woman politician than appearing in one, was simply perverse. And that it should be done by a mainstream news channel that already has a significant share of the Telugu news viewership is all the more shameful.

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