news Thursday, November 06, 2014 - 05:30
Anisha Sheth | The News Minute | November 3, 2014 | 6.03 pm IST Women dressed to the hilt, men with Rudraksh malas, and other implements, talk of nakshatras, gothras, vaastu. Sounds like a scene from a retrograde television serial?  Actually, this sort of thing has been happening on news channels (mostly regional) for a long time, possibly, even before this became the norm on television serials.The airing of astrology shows on television news channels has been the subject of much debate across the country. Newspapers too run horoscope columns are not in the same league as television programmes. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah added his own bit on Sunday. During event organized to mark the 15th anniversary of Kannada daily Vijaya Karnataka, Siddaramaiah said: “Unfortunately, many TV channels show astrology and Vaastu, and run day-long programmes on some frivolous family scuffles. In this transitional age, the media should look to move forward into a modern, scientific age.” Kannada news channels have a host of shows and according to journalists, these shows are the ones that get watched the most and get the highest ratings. Here’s a brief account of the astrology programmes of three of the most widely watched news channels in the state: Public TV’s Bhramanda Bhandara: Presenting, “Brahmanda Bhandara” starrrrring Bramaaanda Guruji!!! Produced by, news and current affairs Kannada channel Public TV.  By way of introduction, Public TV is usually number three on the ratings, but its astrology show is the most popular of all the astrology shows, even that of TV 9, which is the most watched news channel in the state. A dull conch sound played to the beat of drums heralds the show. Enter the anchor, who is usually a woman dressed as if she is attending the wedding of someone in the family: Gold zari sari and mallige flowers in the hair. Watch any back episode on YouTube and you will see a man holding forth, gesticulating with his right hand while holding an implement of some sort in his left. He would probably be saying something about how nobody should interfere when a couple is fighting, what sort of trouble befalls a person when a wedding reception is arranged the night before the wedding, giving an explanation the often hostile relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.  His tone of voice halfway in between matter-of-fact and comedy film dialogue deliver style, he would say something like “Because of (some Chandra thing), a man would have more support from the mother,” he says, waving his arm, his many Rudraksh bracelets around jingling.  TV 9’s Sachidananda Babu  TV 9’s Shri Sachidananda Babu Guriji is the avuncular type of astrologer, giving advice, as though it was a complex mathematical problem that he was explaining, in the mild drone of the priest who chants shlokas for a puja. The show’s introductory music is worthy of Star Wars with matching background graphics. Rather less colourful than Public TV’s guruji, Sachidananda is generally dressed in staid creamish kurta-mundu with a thin understated rudraksha mala falling halfway down his chest.  The anchor looks like she is going for a close friend’s wedding, just right balance of prominent earrings with a sari that does not call much attention to itself.  Obviously, astrology has advice for everything under the sun. So it’s no surprise when the episode list on TV 9 Kannada’s YouTube channel has the following topics: infertility, Matru Viyoga, enemy problems, accidents and eye surgery, gemstones, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relations, all kinds of dosha, children who are “dull” in studies, how to own a house, and the free horoscope and astrology for all rashi.  Suvarna News 24x7' Jathala Phala With a naama sandwiched between a turban and salt and pepper beard, an astrologer spells out the future of callers who tell the anchor their birth date, time and any other details the astrologer might require. The astrologer featured in the Jathaka Phala programme, once appreciated a caller for not being a Hindu and still having faith in astrology, and that too he was from another state!  Rather subdued, introduced by a little bit of classical music and the anchor usually wears a nice sari. If there is a special occasion such as a pooja, then the sari volume goes up.  According to senior journalist and Editor of media watch website The Hoot Sevanti Ninan, astrology shows and related programming have been around since Aaj Tak was launched in the 1990s. News channels are given permission to operate as news and current affairs channels and telecast of such programmes is a violation of the norms. Ninan says: “The I and B ministry gives licences according to certain norms. Whenever it suits the ministry it arbitrarily takes channels off the air for a certain period for violations of its norms. The government also has a huge TV monitoring establishment in Delhi. There is nothing to stop the ministry from tightening up on channels which have uplinking licences and are doing non news related programming. It chooses not to enforce the rules according to which the licenses are given." Asked about the argument that ratings for these channels affect the salaries of employees, Ninan said: “Pornography also gets high ratings, which is why some Telugu TV channels run it on late night slots. Does it mean it should be allowed?” While there is much criticism from media observers and critics, there appears to be a section of the public too, which is critical of such programming on news channels. Creative Chisel Films made a video that was uploaded on YouTube in April 2009. The two-part series appears to be a spoof of Public TV’s Brahmanda Bhandara.  Called Kaalachakra, the videos are created in the format of the astrology shows on news channels with an anchor who invites the astrologer who is an “expertise in many fields”. Watch the video here:
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