The cacophony king, the logic assailant, the treble raiser trailblazer, our sanctimonious saint of South Bombay is back ! Last week, the Arnab shaped hole on our television screens finally filled up with the newly launched Republic TV. Think of all the dull nights spent flipping TV channels looking for masala content, some entertainment to end the exhausting workday with. Well, think no more. Republic TV, however, will need to go beyond the initial fanfare if it is to make a dent in the Rs 3,500-crore, hyper-competitive Indian news broadcasting market. Republic TV, being launched by ARG Outlier Media sometime over the next four-five weeks, will join over 390-odd news channels broadcasting in India, the world’s most over-served news market.
While the arrival of Arnab was marked with an unhealthy mixture of panic and desperation in the offices of AAP and Congress, it brought about something completely different for the average viewer-pure, unadulterated joy. Arnab has perfected the outrage news model- 8 to 9 “guests” scream at each other over nothing in particular and finally Arnab, with his congenital loudspeaker, out screams them all. The masses lap it up. Great show.
The only problem though, is that this circus masquerades as news. As Abhinandan Sekhri of Newslaundry once pointed out, content cannot be news, and news cannot be content. For Republic and our news channels, the difference between the two is not only blurry; it is as non-existent as a moment of silence on Arnab’s show.
Admittedly, this screaming and daily jingoism is great content. It appeals to our basest instincts, it’s a great indulgent watch. But where do we go when we need actual news? News is what keeps us informed, shapes our opinions, and decides our discourse. Most of us complain about a lowering level of discourse in our country. Republic, and similar news outlets, is the reason why.
Can this be fixed? Honestly, the chances are slim. Historically, especially in the last two decades, content pandering to our base instincts has managed to generate commercial revenue. This revenue validates the creator and nudges him to keep repeating his success. The only conceivable solution here is the hope that people will eventually get bored. When you see someone screaming on the street, it’s interesting for a while, but eventually you move on to more important business. Maybe people will get bored of this rubbish too. Maybe they’ll demanding real news. Maybe.