It was surprising to learn about Jaya Bachchan’s recent comment in Parliament. She turned her ire on Radio Jockeys who crack jokes at the expense of MPs. A couple of Parliamentarians supported her demand for action against these jockeys.
I have not heard these RJs in question but I am inclined to think that our MPs should loosen up a bit and listen in to the way that American shows poke fun at their senators and others in power. Jon Stewart — the TV satirist — spoofs every American politician on the The Daily Show. So popular is he that to be ignored on his show, might be a greater cause for anxiety than actually being satirised on it. Even Barack Obama has not been spared some good-natured ribbing by Stewart. The US President has not bothered to comment on these shows, leave alone raising the issue in Congress! An American political science professor mentioned to me that all his students get their political news from Stewart’s show, and he did not mind one bit. Considering the corporatisation of the American media, this might be a good thing as perhaps these programmes may well wind up being more truthful. Even more interesting is the research done by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, which has discovered that followers of Stewart’s shows are quite clued in on US politics, thanks to the monologues on his show! These are quite often crammed with bald facts like minimum wages, taxes paid by USA’s billionaires and the cost of America’s foreign wars.
I wonder if our MPs could ever consider being part of a programme where they would invite the press and poke fun at themselves. Possibly they would throw up their hands in horror, if they heard about the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. This is an annual show, when every US President makes fun of himself and others. In a recent one, Obama’s reaction to a mention that Putin might be heading for a Nobel Peace Prize was priceless: “To be fair, they give those to just about anybody these days!” Obama, himself a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, had attracted many questions about what he had done to deserve it.
India needs such spaces where politicians are spoofed. Sure, it should be kept within the bounds of decency. But for heaven's sake, raising the matter in Parliament! Aren’t there many more serious matters at stake?
If Parliament must regulate the private FM channels, they should look at their sexist content. The male radio jockeys think it is their fundamental right to flirt with every woman on the programme. The first question invariably is personal, “Are you married?” often followed by, “Is your husband listening in?” Such outrageous comments, if levelled at a woman in her workplace, would surely attract the Vishakha guidelines against sexual harassment. What are these young RJs about? The women are not far behind. The other day at a programme celebrating the birthday of singer, Sunidhi Chauhan, the lady RJ had women come on air to sing Chauhan’s, “Main hoon Sheila, Sheila ki jawani…” Surely, there are better songs to celebrate Sunidhi’s talent! Try as I may, I am not able to see the humour in any of this sexist banter.
So, my request to our honourable Parliamentarians would be to not take themselves so seriously and to learn to have a good laugh at their own foibles. And when it comes to regulating radio channels, please go beyond yourselves and look at the larger picture with regard to societal implications.
The author is an independent writer based in Bangalore