Quality of debates on Indian television

The debate season on our television is fully on. There are debates on every channel with ‘expert’ panels and even ‘bigger (?) expert’ debate anchors.

Mostly these debates (there are one or two exceptions) look like shouting matches between the panelist or even between the anchor and panelists. On some TV channels the anchors  even insult the panel members who meekly accept the insult. This could probably because these expert panel members are paid by the channel for their time and thus to ensure that the channel keeps on inviting them they accept to participate in such meaningless and at time insulting debates.

Most of the anchors have a pre-decided conclusion of the debate and steamroll the panel in that direction. They also have a pre-decided question list which they must complete without bothering to obtain balanced views for the questions from the panel members.

The panelists are a special breed too. Many of them, especially from political parties, think that the louder they shout and the more un-civilised they behave, better it is for their position. At times these debates resemble  a school debate where kids think that louder they shout (they are seldom insulting though) more they have a chance to win the debate.

The TV channels would do a great service to their viewers (assuming that the debates are conducted for the benefit of viewers), if they would watch debate programs like ‘Dateline London’ or ‘Hard Talk’ on BBC or ‘Anderson Cooper 360″ on CNN. This will give them some insight into how to conduct a debate to ensure that it remains meaningful for viewers and does not become a platform for fulfilling agenda of either the anchor or some panel members.

The large number of  jokes circulating on the net regarding anchors and their debates are an indication that public at large too does not take these debates seriously. This is a very unfortunate situation given to the fact that TV is a very powerful medium to reach the public and build a public opinion. There  is thus an urgent need for a proper training for both anchors and panel members on first, how to conduct a debate and then how to constructively participate in it.

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