Not very long ago, a newscaster on one of our many television channels had the axe fall on her for her wrong pronunciation of the name of the Chinese President. She had thought the XI in Xi Jinping referred to the number eleven and so she went on to read it as such. She paid a price in consequence.
Should we blame her for her mispronunciation? We most certainly should, but even as we do that, we will raise the very proper question of whether or not the news departments at our television and radio organisations have the wherewithal to instruct newsreaders on the names of places and people before these men and women go on air.
Obviously, a laidback attitude on the part of the news departments has often marred the quality of news presentation on the electronic media. In the early 1980s, in the absence of the newsreader scheduled for a morning broadcast, an official of Bangladesh Betar was given the responsibility of reading the news. He committed the faux pas of pronouncing the 'Lt' in 'Lt General H.M. Ershad' as LT. He predictably ran into a lot of hot water.
The rules in modern times, where news presentation is concerned, is for newsreaders and newscasters to be thoroughly well-versed in national and global political realities. They are expected to be on top of things through remaining in constant touch with events and incidents shaping up in the country and beyond it.
Reading the news on national media channels is not a reading class in primary school, which is a truth not taken seriously by a good number of practitioners of journalism in the electronic media. When a newscaster mispronounces the 'Mujibur' in Bangabandhu's name as 'Muzibor', it is a sign of weakness not only on her part but also on that of those who man the news department.
In these post-modern times, the requirement for our television and radio to reinvent themselves is immense. Individuals who are recruited in the various departments of the media ought to be tested seriously and deeply on their understanding of the world around them.
That, of course, presupposes the idea that those presiding over the recruitment process are themselves in tune with the world and have a clear grasp of the issues confronting nations at any given time. Unfortunately, the old stereotypes so typical of Third World attitudes to global happenings continue to play out in our news presentation.
Take the matter of foreign names. Newsreaders find it hard, in our context, to mention Gorbachev as Gorbachov, which is the way he is universally referred to. Brezhnev has generally been referred to as Breznev, ignoring the fact that the 'zh' in the name is a point between 'z'and 'h'. Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine is a name our newsreaders need to master.
A reputed former Bangla newscaster on Bangladesh Television could not conceal her indignation with a newscaster who a few days ago, while referring to the loss of valuables by our women footballers returning home, pronounced the word 'luggage' as 'leggage'. Now, how in the Lord's name did that newscaster come to believe that there is such a thing as 'leggage'? Was this individual reprimanded by his channel officials afterward?
We will never know, but what we do know is that our electronic media organisations are in immense need of reinvention. The stiffness which yet characterizes news reading, with the reading done in monotones, with newsreaders under strict instructions to follow the 'rules' is an attitude which belongs in the past.
In India, in the West, newsreaders enjoy the liberty of infusing their presentations with the full force of their personalities --- their body language, their smiles, their seriousness, their interactive dialogue with people they connect with online --- a factor which keeps the audience glued to their radio and television sets. At our news outlets, a process of modernisation needs to be inaugurated, for the good reason that these outlets must not lose their listeners or viewers.
There are areas where these outlets, in the interest of modernisation, can go for new additions to their development strategies. When an eminent citizen passes away, the news departments at these media channels should go swiftly into gathering material on him or her background to complement the reports on the individual's death.
As so happens in media organisations in the developed world, news of prominent citizens' deaths should be focused on the audience being the recipients of detailed obituaries. News reading can be transformed into a recollection of history through the medium of obituaries.
But such changes in the electronic media require the presence of individuals who will be in a position to suggest changes, to formulate strategies toward the necessary modernization process at our radio and television channels. Embarrassments, such as those which are often noticed on the Bangla television channels abroad --- and they are extensions of some of the channels back home --- have to be done away with.
All too often, footagefrom leading overseas television channels are inserted into the Bangla as also English-language news programmes without any credit given to the organisations which first aired that footage. That is downright dishonesty, an unpardonable violation of ethics.
On our talk shows, the tendency on the part of anchors to make statements rather than ask straight questions and to cleverly deflect a participant from proffering opinions of a critical nature on the issues under discussion, generally by going for what is known as a short break, has to be discarded.
At the same time, a professional anchor owes it to his or her audience to remain in full control of the discussion through preventing panelists from going beyond the time allotted to them and making sure that when a panelist speaks, none of the other panelists interfere in the conversation. Firmness on the part of the anchor is of the essence.
More programmes, of a comprehensive nature, on literature and science, on climate change, on diplomacy and on cultural heritage, on education will enrich our electronic media organisations. Radio and television must therefore go head hunting for individuals able to provide intellectual outputs to the shaping and presentation of such programmes.
In a world of twenty-four-hour dissemination of information, the life of a media organization depends on the speed and the smartness with which it can come level with the world. Newsreaders and newscasters will not have to lose their jobs if those who man our radio and television go for a process of re-education, of themselves and of those they exercise authority over, as fast as they can.