The Right and the BJP need an “All Weather” Right of Center consistent mainstream English channel.
Every evening, on shows on MSNBC America, starting from the “Hardball with Chris Mathews” and ending with the “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10 pm, anchors spew their pathological hate for Republican presidential candidates. All this makes our Indian old media’s approach to Modi seem like love affair.
But what makes the American media different is that there is a declared honesty and bifurcation in terms of Republican vs. Democrat with Fox news on one hand and CNN, MSNBC and mainstream on the other.
Since the last few days, an interesting churn has started in the Indian media with the apparent polarization with NDTV, Headlines Today, CNN IBN on one side and Zee News, Times Now at the other end of spectrum vis-à-vis the JNU issue.
It’s high time that the veil of ‘neutrality’ of Indian media be shed and news channels should come out in the open and declare their affiliations.
Since the last few days, “#IndiastandswithArnab” has been a top twitter trend and there seems to be an impression that there is finally an ‘Indian Right-Wing’ mainstream English news channel which is out there to counter the mainstream liberal media. The truth cannot be farther than this.
What the Right and the BJP need is proper a ‘Right of Center’ mainstream English news channel. Take for instance Fox News, which was started in 1996 when media mogul Rupert Murdoch hired former Republican Party media consultant and NBC executive Roger Ailes to launch it.
Fast forward to 2015; according to an article in Washington Post which quotes the Quinnipac Poll, Fox news is now more trusted than MSNBC and CNN. But Fox took 20 long years to reach this position.
While the Republican supporters boosted the Fox numbers, the Democrat and Left supporters did not do the same for MSNBC. In fact in 2014, Fox news was next only to ESPN amongst all ad-supported cable networks.
Recently in an NDTV award ceremony, Prannoy Roy declared how “NDTV” was the most trusted brand and countered the fact that shows like “The O’Reilly Factor” and Fox in general could not take on the likes of CNN.
Well, the fact is that Bill O’ Relly is now one of the most watched TV shows under the news category.
I guess the Indian media like other left-liberal institutions has gone unchallenged for a long time. Starting with the state-owned media, the channels have promoted leftist and now far-left oriented narratives stifling any other alternative viewpoints.
The fact that it took Fox almost twenty odd years to establish itself against CNN has a message for ‘Right of Center’ sympathizers and especially the BJP. It will be a long drawn process and while it may not take twenty years but a credible alternative mainstream ‘Right of Center’ English news channel will require genuine investment of quality journalism and credibility in reportage.
The Liberal media charlatans may dismiss with fact that news is all about facts. Agreed, but if that was the case now, let’s go back to the good old days of Doordarshan where we had “News Readers” and not current age “News Makers”. Today the prime time shows are all about debates where the nature of questions makes the tilt well known except.
Rachel Maddow on MSNBC unapologetically displays her pro-Obama and anti-Donald Trump stance every single night and the audience is well aware of it.
Here’s what she said on the telecast on 28 January 2016 regarding Trump skipping the Iowa debate for a Veterans’ fundraiser-
“Mr. Trump is not going to the debate. Instead, he`s convening his own event at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. And he`s calling this a fund-raiser for veterans. Although given his past history of trying to wrap himself up in veterans glory and purporting to raise money for veterans when he doesn`t seem to have actually done that, that assertion should be taken with a grain of salt, roughly the size of the rock of Gibraltar.”
People who make fuss and also make fun of Fox News haven’t seen the MSNBC rant for Democrats. But the real question is the presence of two platforms for alternative opinions which every healthy democracy should have.
Today we are in a situation where the ‘Right’ seems to have a space only on social media or big tents like this publication. It’s important that mainstream, especially English news channels also create viable space for the right. This isn’t needed just for a political discourse but also to have TV shows where scholars like Koenraad Elst have platforms to take on the Ram Guhas of the world.
As for BJP, it’s in their best interest that they help in cultivating such a channel not as a mouthpiece but as a genuine platform aided through its think tanks and strategists. They can take delight in a paper written by economists Stefano DellaVigna and Ethan Kaplan in 2007 where they empirically showed how Fox helped Republican party in elections:
“We find a significant effect of the introduction of Fox News on the vote share in Presidential elections between 1996 and 2000. Republicans gained 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points in the towns that broadcast Fox News. Fox News also affected voter turnout and the Republican vote share in the Senate. Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 28 percent of its viewers to vote Republican, depending on the audience measure”