The Beeb's Paul Danahar on the problems created by the zany growth in TV news in India.
Once there was just one TV news channel, now there are dozens. Luckily for today's youngsters the sign on the door of many often says “Experience not required”, something any politician will testify to.
The former Home Minister Indrajit Gupta was one day doggedly pursued by a young journalist on his way out of parliament.
When he finally agreed to stop for the news crew, he was asked the probing question. “Sir, would you please say something”. The second question was “and Sir, who are you?”
There are hundreds more people like this being churned out everyday by a new growth industry, the news anchoring course.
This is where some poor schmuck pays a large sum of money to do a two-week course which they believe will qualify them for a highly paid job on a TV channel. …
When dodgy qualifications are not enough, some people offer other incentives for potential employers.
One young woman described herself in the opening line of her CV to my office as being “young and vivacious”.
There's no hard evidence yet of the casting couch being wheeled into the nation's newsrooms. But the scourge of the modern Indian TV channel, the warfornews.blogspot.com website, is full of accusations of sexual harassment of young women by more senior staff.
The site is driving the editors of the news channels to distraction because some very embarrassing, although unsubstantiated revelations, regularly turn up on the blogs.
Managers seem to be discovering that when you take graduates just out of college you often get the antics of graduates just out of college.
Alongside the more serious claims of sexual harassment are daily reports of sex, drugs, drunkenness, blazing rows and general incompetence among the staff of various newsrooms.
And when the channel editors send out e-mails demanding that people stop leaking to the blogs, those e-mails end up on the site too. So to be fair, while some Indian TV newsrooms might look like college campuses, they do at least share some of the attributes of Fleet Street. …
It is a turbulent time for everyone in the media industry. Competition is cut-throat, and things are being made worse by some bizarre government legislation which critics say amounts to censorship.
For all of India's claim at being a great modern state, it is perhaps the only democratic country in the world which presently prohibits foreign TV journalists from doing live news broadcasts on breaking news.
Permission has to be sought, in writing, 10 days in advance which makes the live coverage of events like the Mumbai blasts impossible. Now the government is threatening to introduce legislation to hamstring the domestic TV media as well.
NDTV's Managing Editor, Barkha Dutt, described the proposed Broadcasting Bill 2006, which would allow officials to “inspect, search and seize equipment” if they think a report breaks their guidelines as “the most absurd and autocratic legislation… That is not just preposterous; it is dangerous”.
If the new legislation scares the media into not tackling difficult stories, the accusations of the dumbing-down of TV news will get louder and young talent will never learn their trade.
The BBC, I'm happy to say, has been spared that last problem. A friend of mine, who is in marketing, remarked when I told her about Ms “Young and Vivacious” that the woman “clearly doesn't know the reputation of the BBC in India because it's obvious that you recruit people for their journalist skills”.
I basked briefly in the reflected glory of the BBC's international reputation for integrity and professionalism until she added “because most of the BBC correspondents we see are either old or ugly.”