During the previous Congress-led UPA government, it was widely rumoured that a non-Hindi speaking Union minister was so mixed up with one English TV news channel that he routinely telephoned his favourite anchor or the “PCR” (production control room) to correct or dictate the “news ticker”.
It hasn’t changed much during the BJP-led NDA government, with that Congress minister’s alter-ego in the BJP doing the same, except that the exercise is now faster, vaster and more insidious.
On Thursday, when the Narendra Modi government removed the CBI director Alok Verma, a day after he had resumed office following the Supreme Court’s OK, Rahul Shivshankar of Times Now devoted the 8-9 pm slot of his “India Upfront” programme to it.
As BJP MP Subramanian Swamy picked holes in the government’s approach, calling it “undemocratic” among other things, the anchor intervened to read out a message on his mobile phone that he said on-air could be attributed to “government sources”.
That message, part of the news management tactics of the BJP, is now doing the rounds in its entirety.
As the former Indian Express editor and Union minister Arun Shourie said on the first anniversary of the Narendra Modi government in 2015, “headline management” is the order of the day.
“The government seems to be more concerned with managing headlines than putting policies in place. The situation is like the many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle lying in a mess with no big picture in mind about how to put them together.”