What is “Breaking News”?

I get to see the “Breaking News” banner (With a Red colour background) almost every other day on news channels. In earlier days, this was a rare sight, to see this flashing banner which almost covers half of the entire screen when on display. But now we have a “Breaking News” so often, it seems we are nearing the end of the world or something.

So, this evening I switch on the TV again, and I see the “Breaking News” flash again, and I decide on to hold on to this channel which was “Zee News”.

The news was about the Delhi Bomb blasts that happened yesterday. These were the “Breaking news” feeds:

1. Koi thos saboot ya suraag baramad nahi hua hai
(Police has got almost no evidence/clue till now)

2. bomb blast mein shaayad abc group ka haath, lekin is baat ki pushti nahi
(abc group may be involved in the blasts but it can’t be verified)

3. cyber cafe owners customers ka record rakha karen
(Cyber Cafe owners requested to keep record of the customers)

Most of the points mentioned above were “tentative” in nature. And this was Breaking news.

This news is relevant, yes, but is this “Breaking News”? I thought that phrase was used to tell about events that could shock me. Those events that could leave me stunned. But like many others, Zee News is cheap. Flash the red banners and the channel surfers are bound to go back and take notice.

A few days back we had similar news, a bomb blast and the news presenter was talking with a reporter who was at the site. A brief excerpt of what I heard:

News Presenter: xyz-ji, yeh bomb dhamaka kaafi zabardast tha, ab tak kitne logon ke marne ki aashanka hai wahan par?
( This bomb blast was a big one, how many people have died till now?)

Reporter: ji kaafi log ghayal hue hain, lekin kisi ke marne ki koi khabar nahi hai hamare paas
(Many are injured, but we are not aware of the number of casualties)

News Presenter: aisa kaise ho sakta hai, itna bada dhamaka aur ek bhi aadmi nahi mara? fir bhi aapka andaza kya hoga, kitne log mare hein, kuch to bataiye?
(Such a big blast and none dead? How is it possible? What’s your estimate, how many, do you think, must have died?)

And I wondered. Sitting in his air conditioned room, facing the camera how settled this news presenter was, while he actually hoped that someone had died there at the site. How convenient it was for him to add some more spice to the news. How thick skinned had he become after reporting the bomb blasts and the dead, and how he almost took a certain pride in it while he announced them on national television. How cheap it was, this human life, for him.

More from Rajeev Shukla, the congress MP from the Rajya Sabha, a respected media-man, as he wrote in his column published in yesterday’s Indian Express. Allow me to quote him here:

” Hard news are being sidelined even as peoplelike Kunji Lal, a non-descript astrologer from a remote village are able to take two national news channels hostage for hours. Lal predicted his own death at a precise time last week and our news channels went hysterical; putting all news on hold while relentlessly broadcasting what were deemed to be the last few hours of an otherwise healthy old man. Unfortunately for them, the man proved to be a fraud and lived past his deadline to the channel’s embarrassment”.

What do you say to that? I am so sad I missed that important “news”. I am sure this one was also accompanied by the Red coloured “Breaking News” banner.

Why are we treated with this trash? Or is the average Indian TV viewer too obsessed with the saas-bahu soap dramas that s/he looks for an element of drama even in the news? I do not understand, why would an astrologer’s prediction of his own death be relevant to me? When the police requests the cyber cafe owners to keep records of their customers, why does it become “Breaking News”? Why are the gory details of the dead telecasted live on national television?

Update: In the rare case the above post interested you, please read Alaphia’s post here.

4 thoughts on “What is “Breaking News”?

  1. so tru these buggers hype up things so badly. Its not Zee alone check Star News for them if a local politicain farts its a breaking news for them. BTW hows ur travelling goin on and wih you a happy diwali .

  2. Hi Truman,

    Im just as distressed as you are. Its really traumatising to watch Hindi channels. Its true that
    news is being sexed up so that it can be competitive, but its really the death of journalism.
    The one refreshing development in recent times has been the rise of the citizen journalist through
    blogging.

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