Thats how pink floyd would have penned their lyrics now if the ‘Wall’ were to be released in the present era. First it was a once in a year thing, then years became months and months then became weeks and weeks finally ended up becoming days.  Yeah, not a day now passes without some “sting” operation or “caught on cam” news. Though it is clear these so called news channels air them only for TRPs (ratings), there are certain people who would dare to defend them and argue about their “service” to the society. Well, finally they can all shut their mouths tight now. You should be aware by now of the sting-gone-wrong operation, if not, I congratulate you on refraining from current affairs, thereby bringing oodles of joy into your life. I’m just gonna write a short intro here, you can go ahead and read the whole story if you wish. Some days back a hindi news channel aired a sting op supposedly showing a delhi school teacher pushing her students into prostitution. Though it is clear now, that the teacher did not push her students in to flesh trade, the piece did push the channels ratings. On a side note, a mere 100+ people (read Mob) gathered outside the school and started with their usual job of pelting stones, Molotov cocktails, burning scooters, buses and whatever they could find. Others, who dint have time for rioting, nonetheless felt outraged for almost 5 minutes and then immediately switched on to their favorite saas-bahu serials. Though I wasn’t able to watch the original news, I got the full impact of the situation the next day when it made it to the papers. I could just imagine how it would’ve been the day before on the TV. Following is just a mere speculation of the events that might have happend when the story broke out. It would’ve started out as a “breaking/flash news” splash on the bottom of the TV, first just the text, with big bold fonts screaming for attention. Then the presenter would’ve broken the current boring news item by saying, “We take you now to a story thats just breaking…” and would’ve introduced us to the video with the almost compulsory tag-line, “This is a LiveTV exclusive”. And they would’ve kept playing the video over and over till more sponsors called up to fill in the unsold last minute ad secondages, and the rest is a well known story. The reporter would’ve been happy because he got his “story” aired and a fat pay check in his pocket. The network overwhelmed with joy since it has a boiling controversy in its hands now and thus a promised future till …say, next week (after which another couple of more stings would have to do the job). And the public, my dear socially conscious public, would’ve felt betrayed that an “institution” such as a school and a teacher, who is most revered after mama/papa and before god in hindu mythology, have degraded to such lows. Given its normal life cycle, the whole matter would’ve faded from anyone’s memory in a matter of days, but this one case was unlike anyother. Somedays after the sensational sting op, it emerged that the whole story was faked, framed by the reporter, his friend and another individual who wanted to get back at the teacher. I will not waste time in explaining what happened, please read about it here. But then again, come rain or shine, its always spring for the news channels. And now every OTHER news channel had its share of the pie, and those big bright fonts began flashing again on the TVs. The socially conscious public were again angry as they now felt betrayed that they’ve been made to believe a big white lie.

  Now, I have to tell you, i’m no fan of hidden cams at all. To me it is THE most disrespectful tool in the hands of a reporter. There’s nothing investigative in using hidden camera to find out the truth about a person instead of having the courage to fight him/her face to face. The whole practice seems very unethical to me, devoid of the true spirit of investigative journalism. It all looks like a dirty get-rich-quick scheme, except here you get rich by upping your networks rating. People like Upton Sinclair and Ida Tarbell would be tossing in their graves if they ever come to know about this dishonest and immoral system of reporting. If ever you are going to gain credibility as an honest journalist, your gonna have to do with a mighty pen and a brave heart. This conduct shouldn’t be the enforced at all, but has to be come from within every reporter. I was actually relieved to see the Indian broadcast ministry not take this seriously and try to introduce any code of conduct for journalists, they’ve now infact left it to the discretion of the networks (is this for worse?). The govt seems to have only grown used to all these sting ops after the tehelka tragedy and others that followed. But it wouldn’t be long before the dirty broadcast ministry would happily introduce one if there’s no change in the way networks use sting ops to hunt for ratings. That would only lead to many real reporters and journalists being jailed using the new law for reporting about corrupt politicians. The only way to discourage them is by not watching them, sending feedbacks to the network asking them to refrain from staging stings. I was an avid reader of warfornews(link not working now), before it was closed down by the big bosses of two well know TV heads. I loved the detailed descrption of the drama, the scandals and the stories about what goes on inside a news network, though i dint like the way they published company emails. If only they could have come out of hiding and used ethical practices, i’m sure they’d reached a better audience and would’ve gotten a louder mouth. Anyway why lament about the past? The point is, warfornews detailed how the news networks plan sting ops. They set targets, sit in boardrooms and debate whether it was prostitution week or corruption week. Funny eh? Yeah that’s your news network. I should infact suggest that you go and watch this movie, network,  and see how much of it is relevant today.

The one thing good about hidden cams is that, in a socialist and corrupt country like India, it could be a powerful tool in the hands of an individual (the reporter is exempt in this case, since he has special powers granted by law that the ordinary individual doesnt have, though press freedom in India is now where close other coutries). But, if the individual does manage to record his ordeal on a cam, to whom does he go? To the network? Who’d gladly pay for the rights to his tape and then use it to pump ratings*. May be he could publish it in his blog or something, but how many people here have net at home, and how many read blogs other than check mail and orkut. So the bottom line is, “Is there any real use for hidden cams then?”

*NOTE: Pumping ratings is nothing bad at all, actually speaking I would like to see people bring down ratings of sting ops instead of the network somehow magically refraning from this unethical pratice. Hey if it sells, they will always keep selling it, nothing wrong with that at all.

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