It was one of the biggest Supreme Court verdicts in recent times and the television coverage had to live up to the mega event – decision on the Ram Janmabhoomi – Babri Masjid title dispute. The television news channels realised its TRP value and so did news portals.
The news programmes around the verdict can broadly be divided into curtain-raisers, live reporting and news analysis after the verdict.
Curtain-raisers are reports before the event and in this case, the reports were planned and were being telecast for a few days. The Indian news channels more or less dedicated their morning programmes on the D-day to this big verdict, which was scheduled for 10.30 am on November 9, 2019.
The hype around the Supreme Court verdict was so much that channels had a digital count down clock on display. Probably this was the first time in Indian television that such count down had been put up for a court verdict. It made sense as the audience was waiting with bated breath for the outcome.
Reports before the event
The reports before the event included looking into the background in terms of history; 3D graphics highlighting what exactly was the topography of the disputed land in Ayodhya, India. As specifics were discussed, experts and people supporting the different sides were roped in to pad up these stories.
Maturing of the Reporting skills
It was obvious that the verdict and its reportage had the potential to create conflicts. Treading the path carefully was a tough task. But most of the reports managed to stay neutral without igniting any passion. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry had issued an advisory to all news channels in the wake of the Supreme Court judgement on Ayodhya title dispute.
In that advisory, the ministry had said that in view of the verdict it becomes “imperative to ensure that debates/discussions/visuals carried on electronic media do not incite any divisive or anti-national feelings or sentiments”.
And most channels ensured that.
Live Reporting of the Verdict
As verdict time neared, the focus shifted to live reports. Even as reporters waited outside the Supreme Court and in Ayodhya, the newsrooms had the task of rotating between the various live locations and at the same time ensuring that no minor event got missed in any of the locations.
Since cameras are not allowed into the courtroom, it was left to reporters to tweet or message short notes as the verdict was being pronounced by the Chief Justice of India. The reporters had to ensure that there were no goof-ups even as they listened to what was being said.
Anchors in the studios had to stitch the story together for the audience. They had to simultaneously, try and analyse what each one of the sentences meant. Not surprisingly, the star anchors were asked to present the show even during this non-prime time news.
Eventually, the entire verdict was available to the public to see and understand
Post Verdict Analysis
This is where the experts, and stakeholders played a major role. Everyone had to ensure that nothing libellous or defamatory was being aired and at the same time ensure that people understand the full meaning of the verdict.
The dispute was focused on a plot of land in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, which is regarded among the Hindus to be the birthplace of the Hindu deity Ram. Some also believe that it was originally the site of a Hindu temple that was demolished to construct a mosque known as Babri Masjid around 1528. In 1992, Hindu activists demolished the Mosque.
The title dispute was already in courts and finally, the Supreme Court of India has finally given its judgement.
In the past, thousands of lives were lost over the fight for this land and the aftermaths. Now that this verdict is out, let us hope that no more lives are lost.