Board for Commentary Censorship in India: Sacking of Harsha Bhogle by BCCI an ominous warning

The problem with anointing a single entity with grand virtue is that everyone else comes off shabby in comparison. The removal of Harsha Bhogle from the panel of IPL cricket commentators has generated a bout of criticism because there is a suspicion that Harsha annoyed the BCCI and other sundry bigwigs with his ‘independence’.

Bhogle also annoyed certain cricketers with his honesty. A couple of days ago he tweeted about Dhoni’s missed stumping in an IPL game and got a reply from well known commentator Jonathan Agnew who said, ‘be careful they might ban you from tweeting next.’ This reinforces the belief that you either toe the line or walk the plank.

Representational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

Since talent per se has never been a prerequisite for corporate tolerance, do we now conclude that the only criterion for being selected is unalloyed surrender and subservience to the powers that be in the BCCI? By the sheer science of this argument, commentators like Ramiz Raja, Sanjay Manjrekar, Russel Arnold, Scott Styris and the rest of the pack are a bunch of wimps, men who have weakly capitulated and done away with telling it like it is.

Consequently, the truth is now up for grabs and only the sanitised 'you cannot say this or that' yardstick is the measure.

And so it shall be, like it or not. It's happened before. In 2013, Sanjay Manjrekar was dumped for criticising N. Srinivasan. Danny Morrison and H.D.Ackerman were impolitely shown the door from the IPL voice box because they called Virat Kohli ‘captain’ in waiting. We will have many more incidents as dissidents are weeded out. This is so ominous it grates.

For example, is it right for the rudely-displaced Team India manager Ravi Shastri to swallow his pride for the sake of a job and become an IPL commentator again and interview kids on a one-to-one? Has Ravi become pliable?

Viewing this tawdry and tacky situation, one has to ask if the BCCI now wants only yes-men and lickspittles and, in doing so, brooks no freedoms of speech. Therefore, do we have to look forward to second-rate speakers because they were first-rate cricketers and because they will come with their tame balls of wool and say all the right things? The fresh lot include Virender Sehwag, Aakash Chopra and Zaheer Khan but none of them would be mistaken for riveting speakers. Yet, they get the job.

Downplaying commentating from an art to a mere indulgence when hundreds of thousands are tuning in is absurd and should be the center of a media blitz of resistance. Time to have commentary that can filter out the propagandist BCCI version. As fans we want probity, not censorship.

Tomorrow, the BCCI may decide they don’t like a report in a publication, or a columnist who has critiqued the system and its many wondrous ills. Some player may be offended and demand ouster or else…and they will do it. They will then boycott the journalist and replace him or her with domesticated parrot. When this happens, and it will and might even extend to pressure from the media organisation’s management, will the fourth estate stand by helplessly and impotently bear witness to the fiasco?

Believe me, we are not to far away from that point where ostracisation will be par for the course. Commentators, columnists, sports writers, bending and bowing, scraping like berserk windshield wipers at the feet of the warlords of the BCCI.

Are we so pathetic now even raising a banner for our own is a tedious effort?

There was a time, not so long ago, when a media rep was backed by his own for standing by his words.

Now, there is glee in his fall because several other rabbits will jostle for his place.

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Updated Date: Apr 16, 2016 17:17:46 IST

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