It’s Sunday morning. The Economic Times, I’m given to understand, is not distributed in Coimbatore on Sundays. The Times of India is available, I’m given to understand, only by early afternoon. No Hindustan Times. The Hindu is available early morning, so I read it.
No crosswords to do, though. I refuse to acknowledge The Hindu crossword as one.
So I’m done with the paper. And I go for a walk. And have breakfast in the coffee shop (no one else in the gang of friends I’m with is even close to being awake) and trudge back to the room and switch on the TV.
Cricket is delayed thanks to the fog.
Oh, well, the Mumbai Marathon is on. Can’t think of less attractive TV viewing than grown men and women running 42.5 km, but it’ll have to do.
So I watch and I watch. It’s almost like watching paint dry. Actually, it’s worse.
And I keep watching inane interviews with participants. And I watch discussions on the humidity factor (which I’ve been doing since the first Mumbai Marathon). And I’m ROFL as Chhagan Bhujbal mutilates the Queen’s English.
And then the news comes in that Jyoti Basu has passed away.
And that was the end of the Mumbai Marathon, which was just getting exciting. (The TV bit, I mean, the inane conversations. Not the marathon itself, which finished ages ago).
CNN-IBN instantly forgot about the marathon. As did, obviously, all the other channels. From that moment, it was all Jyoti Basu.
And I thought to myself, what would have happened to Standard Chartered and all the other sponsors and to all the NGOs who jumped on to the marathon bandwagon, if Jyoti Basu had passed away at 7.00 am?
The Mumbai Marathon would have been run and no one would have seen it. Millions of rupees of PR opportunity would have disappeared.
That’s the limitation of television as opposed to print or the internet – it can only focus on one story at a time.
And an event such as the marathon has only ‘live’ appeal. A repeat is out of the question.
The event also highlights the disadvantage of getting a general news channel to partner you on a sports event. On a sports channel, no change in programming would have occurred.
On a news channel, only the most important news of the moment matters. Nothing else does.
On September 5, 1997, Mother Teresa passed away and the news channels focused on her… for a few hours.
That was because Princess Diana had died a few days earlier on August 31 … and her story and the conspiracy theories made for ‘better’ television.
As I said, for news channels, only the most important news of the moment matters. Nothing else does.
Even Mother Teresa lost to Lady Di.
What chance did the Mumbai Marathon stand when pitted against Jyoti Basu?
Less than a snowball’s chance in hell.