Sunday, November 11, 2012

Laugh Out Loud Television News

Indian television provides many laugh out loud moments.  

Headlines Today could easily be repackaged as a News version of Woody Allen's "What's Up Tiger Lily!" (In case readers don't remember, that dates back to the time when Chinese films were a novelty and Allen, then still funny, provided his own riotous subtitles to one.)

Any interview by Prannoy Roy, especially on foreign affairs or economics, is usually rich in laughs. His most recent outing, on the US election, did not disappoint for its premise was that the world's most disciplined under control democracy is on the verge of becoming "ungovernable." He seems to have fallen for the "deeply divided electorate" line that US television anchors resort to when voting patterns get too mind-numbingly predictable.
Arvind Kejriwal's Press Conference on HSBC bank accounts was comic in a refreshingly new way. It showed broadcasters in the role of Wily Coyote who in his heyday was always running off cliffs and remaining airborne until he looked down and saw there was no ground under his feet.

Anticipation was high before the show, with excited reporters speculating on what was about to be revealed. Once it began, there was an almost visible deflation. Moments after Mukesh Ambani's name was mentioned as one of the account holders Headlines Today began noting it as a "faux pas" by Kejriwal: a crawler said HSBC had apologized to the Mumbai billionaire. Another noted that his account had "zero balance."

Kejriwal evidently realized he was not on a good wicket right away and a look of gloom settled in under the high cap. He was quite clearly completely at sea about the information he was divulging, and seemed to think the HSBC accounts are all hawala arrangements. Most are probably the proceeds of trade mispricing.

Luckily for him, there were few questions. The journalists present exhibited no curiosity at all about any aspect of the revelations.

In contrast to Indian television, the BBC provides few occasions for laughter.

Only a grammarian would crack a smile at the shop-girlish exchanges of "Thank you very much indeeds!" by anchors who seem not to know the uses of an adverb. (I live in dread of the day one of them will sing out "Hello Indeed!")

So, while we are on the subject of HSBC, it is probably appropriate to mention that the BBC's coverage of the bank's black accounts story -- back when it broke this summer -- had one laugh out loud moment.

The story this summer was that investigators in New York had found HSBC routinely laundering drug/terrorist money and were threatening to take away its license. (They seem to have settled for a billion dollar fine.)

The humor came from one of BBC's inimitably fustian financial analysts who waved away the concerns about British ethics expressed by Business News editor Sally Bundock. HSBC's long-running criminality he said, was an "amazing lapse of concentration."

Anyone who thinks he was being droll should read the testimony of HSBC officials before a United States Senate subcommittee last July. Every single one of them took the line that the money laundering was the result of managerial oversight. Now that the Americans had brought it to their attention, things would change, by God!

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