//Indian TV channels byte off more than they can chew

Indian TV channels byte off more than they can chew

Gulf Times, Qatar , Thursday, 14 December, 2006,
By N.D. Prashant

Sania Mirza gets a pat from Leander Paes during their mixed doubles final
SOME Indian television channels, it seems, would go to any lengths to ensure they have an attentive audience, even if it means telling lies.

Yesterday, they manufactured a major controversy out of thin air by putting words in Mahesh Bhupathi’s mouth after he and Leander Paes had played gallantly to win the men’s doubles gold medal for India.

Indian channels don’t have full access to match venues, severely restricting their coverage of the Asian Games where they have to rely on players’ interviews usually filmed outside the stadium.

Yesterday they opened a sad chapter when the correspondent of one channel fed Bhupathi with the "news" that Paes had said he won’t be teaming up with him again after the Asian Games.

Bhupathi, who should have confirmed this with Paes, launched a blistering attack on the senior pro which was picked up by most TV channels in India, triggering off a massive furore, especially since the Grand Slam legends had just recently put aside their differences in their quest for a gold medal in Doha.

"This was an opportunity to play for my country. He questioned my commitment and loyalty to my country and even my fitness. He flatly said he doesn’t want to play with me. I have been hearing this since the past 12 years. I am hurt," a visibly upset Bhupathi told reporters even as his partner was engrossed in a late evening mixed doubles duel partnering Sania Mirza.

Bhupathi added that he had proved himself by winning the gold. "My relation with Paes is over. I am not going to beg. It was a soap opera. At a time when we were supposed to celebrate, he came up with such a quote," said Bhupathi, adding, "I am happy to leave from here with gold."

However, when newspaper reporters asked Paes to comment on whether he had said anything about not playing with Bhupathi again and that too after the thrilling mixed doubles final, this was what he had to say. "I would love to play with Mahesh, he is a great asset and pillar of the team.

"What more can I say, he is the foundation and he’s always welcome. Let’s not get carried away by what happened earlier this year. We have shown that if we combine we are still the best."

It’s no secret that sports coverage on most Indian channels is amateurish at the best of times with highly-animated correspondents dishing out uninspiring stuff.

Yesterday’s episode, however, takes the cake for sheer insensitivity, especially because it was such a great day for Indian tennis.