On Views

How the scripts for news channel debates are probably written

Disclaimer: This piece is written on a ‘How it looks like’ basis and has no political affiliations of its own. It does not undermine the processes of broadcast media and means no disrespect either. It is merely a common viewer’s reflection about regional media. The image used is for a representative purpose only.

Talk show host picks on the latest hot topic that is bouncing off everyone’s fingers and burning people’s mouths. Decides with his teammates and proprietor about whom to invite for the talk show. Silent but purposeful proprietor leaves hints and retires to his/her office. Show host gets the clue and invites a ratio of 3:1 or 4:2 people comprising of the protagonists and antagonists of a particular political party, preferably measuring a cup more on whichever side the channel’s political ideology or inclination (or even financial loyalty) lies. The team makes sure they have one screamer in the company either on call or in the studio; whom the viewer easily recognises and loves or hates. This is, however, dependent on whether or not the show host is a screamer himself, in which case, the other debaters do not matter from the beginning.

The show begins.

The host introduces the topic, knowing full well what one-liner he’s going to end the show with. Introduces the guests who look subtly aggressive, passive aggressive, stoic and/or ready to pounce. The host rolls the dice by stating the current public opinion about the topic and throws it at the court of one of the speakers, usually the one in tandem with public opinion. The talk begins well, with one person placing his points of view. The dice is rolled off for a counter opinion to the other side where the person for the motion speaks his mind. The discussion moves along with the host playing catalyst to the on-going chemistry. Words and phrases like ethnic history, saffronisation, nationalism, authoritativeness, leftist negativity, etc., are thrown around. In the meantime, a commercial break comes up to let a breather so the debaters can rile each other up enough to throw each other off their chairs and sanity.

The host welcomes everyone back and introduces the screamer, who, initially seems like he is well-read and makes sense and is proceeding with his argument pretty well. The dice is rolled back at the minuscule court of speakers whom the channel has chosen to leave high and dry. Just when that person plans to speak, the screamer interjects with an utterly nonsensical comment, either exposing old skeletons that have nothing to do with the topic at hand; or resorting to caste-shaming and/or ridiculing political ideology, walking completely out of line. The debate now takes a duel format, victim and prey getting back at each other with both subtle and blatant verbal waves of abuse. The show is robbed of 10-15 minutes; the other speakers sit silently while the host tries to make peace, failing mostly terribly. The only way he manages to shut them up is to speak above them and take a commercial break.

Back after the break, people are nursing wounds and sulking. The show host tries to pick the conversation up again with another speaker and the debate is revived for a few more minutes with some logical arguments and fact placing. On asking, the counter opinion remains mum, since he/she has been brutally humiliated and is in no mood to be a part of the show. The sullen speaker begins by saying that if his opinion doesn’t matter, he shouldn’t have been invited. There is some pacifying and appeasement and finally, he decides to speak. The long pauses from Distress to Reasoning eat up the few more minutes left in the show. But he insists that his argument needs to be allowed to have historical references and refuses to speak without them. By the time he reaches the That’s Why of the debate, the show has to be quickly and desperately wound up, the host is panicky and the other speakers have something more to add, counter or refer to. Finally, the host quickly steers clear of the background score of his debaters’ voices and closes the argument with what he initially came into the show with – his own point of view.

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