A pair of rival television channels operating out of the same Mumbai building represent two opposing philosophies of journalism in the eight-part ZEE5 series ‘The Broken News’. Given the reputation of the media in India, the relevance of this show cannot be overemphasised. It addresses pressing questions that thrillers rarely tackle.
Awaaz Bharati is an ethical and a credible news channel, headed by Editor-In-Chief Amina Qureshi (played by Sonali Bendre) and Josh 24/7 News, headed by Editor-In-Chief Dipankar Sanyal (played by Jaideep Ahlawat), is India’s No.1 news channel as per TRPs but believes in brash sensationalism and invasive journalism. Between these two extreme characters is Radha Bhargava (played by Shriya Pilgaonkar) who believes in ethical journalism but is frustrated with the restrictions which come along with it.
Adapted from the BBC’s British television drama, ‘Press’, the structure of ‘The Broken News’ is a mixture of procedural and serialised storytelling. The procedural aspects allow for ‘The Broken News’ to explore a wide range of topics, from a student suicide to a sexual harassment scandal involving a prominent actor, to corporate espionage, and even social causes. Credit must be given to the writers for how the procedural and serialised elements are tied together in a mostly coherent narrative. However, the show suffers from the lack of translation that most remakes of imports face.
The fight of ethical journalism forms a major chunk of the narrative as the journalists wrestle between crossing the line and chasing the facts. Ahlawat, as usual, is impressive and will floor you with his ruthless editor act. However, the surprise package is Bendre who is the fierce news editor and is cast perfectly. ‘The Broken News’ cast works just fine. However, the show’s simple dialogues and a light touch on important issues are insufficient for a web series dealing with the impact of media on the current landscape of information delivery and sharing.
The writing also falls short and is wildly inconsistent, ranging between nuanced and subtle to becoming over the top within a single scene. It is almost jarring how the show showcases Bhargava’s character leaving one company to take up a job in the rival company, getting disillusioned fast, and, by the end of the episode, getting back to the same company she had left in the first place. And while, as a consequence, her character is asked some legitimate questions by her superiors, her flip-flopping decision somehow makes her the face of the new version of the company, and thus she begets a promotion. This entire series of sequences is so far removed from reality that even comparing it with any semblance of realism feels like an absolute waste of time and energy.
‘The Broken News’ manages to showcase the chaotic nature of the behind-the-scenes of the media houses while being unable to show the personal lives of the protagonists with much flair. It’s a shame because the show had the potential to be a far more nuanced exploration of the profession of journalism instead of being sensationalist junk fodder, which ironically, the show’s protagonists are against.