Why is a 28-second kiss shown 100 times on TV, asks minister


New Delhi : Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi Thursday deplored the tendency of television channels to sensationalise trivial incidents, wondering aloud how “28 seconds of Shilpa Shetty kissing” qualified as breaking news throughout the day.

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“28 seconds of Shilpa Shetty kissing was shown 28 times, 48 times, 88 times, even 100 times. Is it for commercial purposes, TRP purposes? In a country of one billion people, I don’t know how this becomes breaking news,” asked the minister at a seminar here to commemorate World Press Freedom Day.

Dasmunsi was referring to the much-publicised kissing incident between Hollywood actor Richard Gere and Indian film star Shilpa Shetty at a function here to raise AIDS awareness among truckers last month that led Hindu nationalists to demand Gere’s arrest for violating Indian culture.

He then turned his attention to the issue of freedom of press and alleged that while Indian media barons and employers were enjoying “freedom of press”, they did not allow “freedom of journalists”.

“In India we have freedom of press – yes; but freedom of journalists – not yet. Sometimes journalists work in most pitiable conditions,” commented the minister.

“How many journalists are protected by the norms and regulations of employment?” asked Dasmunsi, adding, “One journalist I know had a critical problem and even though she rushed by an auto-rickshaw, she got delayed by five minutes and missed the sound byte. She started crying and Somnathda (Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee) and I gave her the bytes again, lest she lose her job.”

He alleged, “75 percent journalists in India are voucher paid (as against regular salaried employees). Does this reinforce the freedom of press?”

Dasmunsi used the occasion to announce that that All India Radio and Doordarshan would have a 50:50 ratio of men and women for anchoring, reporting and all other news-related work from Aug 15, India’s Independence Day.

While addressing the seminar jointly organised by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Indian Women’s Press Corps on ‘Gender Equality in Media’, Dasmunshi said the “country requires it (gender equality) and the people desire it”.

At the seminar, Renuka Chowdhury, minister of state for women and child development, stressed on the need for overall improvement in the conditions for working women in all spheres to ensure that “they do not have to compromise their reproductive period to attend to their productive period”, since the age at which women can perform best is also the time their fertility is at its peak.

Noted journalist Mrinal Pande, who presided over the proceedings, noted that the growth of TV channels in different parts of the country has provided the until now unavailable opportunity to educated women from small towns, more comfortable with their vernacular language, to come forward and progress in the media.