Once I found Manish Tewari and Ajit Singh on CNN-IBN and Times Now at the same time on what were supposed to be live discussions. I wondered how it could be. I had heard or read about the saints having the gift of bilocation but it was more than that. It was bilocation plus bilocution. Not only people were present on two different places at the same time they were also saying different words at the same time.
Sometimes I found panelists on three channels at the same time. Finding on two channels had become common. It was obvious someone had recorded with some people before and using the footage. No channel disclosed someone was interviewed before the programme except once when Amitabh Revi on NDTV 24×7 said Kiran Bedi was interviewed before.
On 9/11/2011 on Face the Nation there were four panelists: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Arun Bhatia and two others. It was about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s anti-corruption yatra in Uttar Pradesh. The question was whether spiritual gurus should participate in the fight against corruption. Arun Bhatia criticized Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and said he had trivialized corruption. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was unruffled at the criticism. He did not respond.
Next day came the shocker. At the end of Face the Nation Sagarika Ghose apologized to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. She admitted it was recorded a couple of hours earlier. Face the Nation is telecast at 10 p.m., so couple of hours earlier means at 8 p.m. The recording was around 3 p.m., seven hours earlier and not a couple of hours earlier.
Face the Nation exposed itself to be Cheat the Nation. How many times it had used pre-recorded material we do not know. It is probable that some had protested but that had not become public. Sometimes for factual errors anchors apologise as one there was an apology for putting Bangalore in Andhra Pradesh. It is rare for an anchor to apologize for misleading the viewers. It means not apologizing to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was not an option.
There has to be action against news TV channels that mislead viewers. There has to be punishment for claiming an interview to be exclusive when it is not. If pre-recorded footage is used there has to be disclosure. Use of phrases like Breaking News or Just In should be restricted. Separate cameras should not be used for people sitting in the studio. For a start every channel that claimed it had exclusive interview of Anna Hazare some weeks back can apologise saying “We claimed we had exclusive interview of Anna Hazare. We were wrong. We were one of the 17 channels that had interviewed Anna Hazare. We apologise to our viewers for misleading.”