This was coming for a long time. The Opposition alliance, INDIA, released a list of anchors on mainstream news channels — 14 of them across English and Hindi channels — that it would boycott due to their “hate-filled” news and debates. These include some of the marquee news channels with the most recognised names in the news business and rank among the more popular ones commanding loyal audiences. This name-and-shame tactic of the media — unprecedented by any standards — by the INDIA bloc created a stir. The named anchors, their supporters, and curiously (or not) the ruling party’s followers on social media were loud in their condemnation that the move was “anti-democratic” and smacked of "Emergency". Those tired of or at the receiving end of the deliberate disinformation, biased debates, and an agenda that supports the ruling party’s narrative hailed this as a master tactic to counter the media. Fierce debates ensued over this, bolstered by the leaked news that at least two parties in the INDIA bloc disapproved of it.
To cut through the clutter, the move deserves to be read in the context of the media environment of the past few years in which some anchors have ceased to be journalists — doing information and opinion work with balance, fairness and truth — and turned into part-time or full-time propagandists of the ruling party. By itself, a boycott is hardly anti-democratic; even Mahatma Gandhi used it to counter injustices of the colonial British. It is a tactic that the Opposition, now united and in power in at least 11 states, has resorted to after being subjected to hate, scorn and contemptuousness for years on these channels. Did these anchors believe they could get away with it forever, secure in the backing of the ruling party? If this move forces the news anchors to become less hate-filled and give the opposition due space on screen, it will be hailed but if it merely turns them into heroes — or victims as they have projected themselves — then it would have backfired. Even then, the fact that deep-rooted bias and propaganda in the media have been called out would have helped restore sanity in the country’s news environment.