Thursday, April 01, 2010

The media and ‘other’ sports

(Also in Bengali daily Ek Din)

For a change, let me talk about something a bit personal, instead of the bigger picture. I am talking about a conference I was part of in Delhi recently, where we were talking of the media’s role in promoting sports outside of cricket, especially in connection with the Commonwealth Games.

Now, this girl cornered me after the discussion, asking me why kabaddi, kho-kho, hockey, etc are ignored by the national media. Now, I will be the first one to admit that the national media downplays news outside of cricket, but I do have a few solid arguments for it.

I asked the girl, “Did you see the half-an-hour documentary my channel did before the hockey World Cup where we spoke to 30 of the greatest Indian living players and used footage never seen in India before?”

She said, “No, I didn’t”.

I asked why. She said that it’s because she didn’t know about it.

Then I asked her, “Have you heard of Reena Dharmshaktu?”

She said she hadn’t. I asked her, “Would you be excited if I told you that Reena recently became the first Indian woman to ski across Antarctica?”

She said she would be excited. I mentioned to her that my channel had recently put together a half an hour show on Reena, using her interview and fantastic shots of the group skiing across Antarctica, encountering blizzards among other things on the way. Obviously she hadn’t seen it.

I asked her again: “Did you see these shows, and if not, why not?”

Her answer was simple: “I wasn’t aware you were showing these programmes. When it comes to one of the bigger channels, it’s easy to know about the big shows they do, because they advertise in newspapers and elsewhere.”

Inadvertently, she had answered the question she had asked me to start with: why do news channels cover cricket over everything else. It’s because when it comes to cricket, we are informed of what is happening. It’s also true of boxing, hockey to an extent, and the Commonwealth Games. These sports are run by federations or associations which have solid communication wings. They keep us informed. As a result, they get covered. In the 15 years that I have spent as a journalist, I have never received a communication from many of the other associations telling us of something that will happen. It’s always what has happened.

Criticise the media all you want. But remember, while it is true that cricket is highlighted because of commercial reasons, other sports are highlighted too. To a lesser extent, but not ignored. Keep us posted of what is happening. Chances are, we will find some room for you. After that, it’s for you to do well and achieve something big. Do that, and we will find even more space for you. Like we have for Leander and Mahesh and Saina and Sania and Anand and Vijender and Abhinav and Narain. If you want to sit in a cocoon and blame the media for ignoring you, chances are you will continue to be ignored.