Watching Barkha Dutt: turning on the news in television studies
The above excerpt from The New York Times, accompanied by a photo of Barkha Dutt – celebrity television journalist and host of NDTV’s popular news talk show ‘We the People’ – at work in her office, recounts ‘Radiagate’ or the Radia Tapes controversy, a public episode of shame and disgrace that implicated Indian journalists, corporate powerbrokers and a wide swath of politicians. Indian tax investigators’ secretly recorded tapes of corporate lobbyist (for Tata and Reliance) Niira Radia’s phone conversations revealed a disreputable nexus of information sharing and deal making among different sections of India’s powerful national elite including several high-profile television and print journalists. A similar story on the Radia Tapes scandal in gulfnews.com, also complemented by a large file photograph of a smiling Barkha Dutt, headlined ‘What Ails New India’ claims that the compromised ethics of mainstream Indian journalists like Barkha Dutt do
not merely expose ‘spectacular corruption – not exactly news – so much as why the supposed watchdogs of democracy have assumed the militant aggressiveness and vanity of the very privileged in a wretchedly poor country’.2 Cast as a successful journalist reduced to a criminalized subject of her own craft in the first story and as a symbol of the arrogance and corruption that plague the new India, a rising economic power, in the second, these narratives of Barkha Dutt’s moment of infamy in media that target audiences outside of India register the growing global recognition of Dutt’s celebrity status as the nation’s premier television journalist.