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Distorted Astrology: News Channels Need to Reinvent Themselves with Credible Content

India suffered a dismal 10-wicket loss to England in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup and millions of cricket fans in India were heartbroken. Although winning and losing are part of the game, and the men in blue used to make the nation proud, fans took this defeat with heavy hearts.

As fans took to Twitter to express their anger at the loss, the weekend was flooded with tweets and memes about the game. Now, since that wasn’t entertaining enough, it wasn’t just the game that was being mocked, but the troll ball had hit the newsrooms this time – and for good reason.

What was worth laughing about was that on a major news channel’s prime time show “11 Jyotish Batayenge, Hum Cup Laenge”, which roughly translates to “11 astrologers will tell you that we will have the World Cup”. The channel aired the show a day before the game – with a format inviting 11 astrologers to sit down and predict India’s fate in the game.

As the show lasted 2.5 hours, the cricket-clad presenter took 11 opinions on India’s fate. What’s funnier is the fact that all 11 declared victory for India! Are news channels supposed to fan and blow with the wind? Isn’t this symptomatic of what they have become in their daily reality?

News Channel and its Astro-fact checkers really left viewers confused. Despite the enormous credibility of the channel, let me ask who was responsible – the news channel with no expert in the field on the show or the astrologers got carried away with giving a populist view or rather the incompetence of some astrologers who took a group to be bad.

The live broadcast of the show on YouTube invited comments that read, “I’m not sorry for India’s defeat, I’m sorry there are such astrologers in our country”. And on a lighter note, “I was looking for a fun, fun video and accidentally clicked on it and now I’m enjoying it.”

Well, this isn’t the first time the channel has offered an astrology show that almost resembled most channels’ prime-time debates – unsubstantiated. Just a few days ago, the channel aired a program “Chandragrahan 22 Jyotisho Ke Sang” and took another 22 opinions on the impact of the lunar eclipse.

The two shows might be the only time the news channel has taken so many opinions on an issue, so patiently. Interestingly, this news channel as well as many top news channels have either stayed away from astrology broadcasts or depended primarily on astrologers for predictions, but I guess the mood of the nation took over.

Jokes aside, this was not just a carelessly sculpted concept for a prime-time show, but even a treat for illegal betting acts. These live and telecast astrological predictions are a boost for the best. What invites such “creative” concepts to these shows? It’s the TRP race and fast ratings to attract potential viewers and by that corollary advertisers.

The game to create market-friendly content or clickable bait content has made the media business difficult. But is this the only way to gain audience? Well, the live commentary clearly suggests that’s not what viewers want to know. In fact, this top news channel normally has very believable content and has done very bold, honest and believable news coverage.

The show’s creative directors could have considered calling in industry experts instead of astrologers to give their thoughts on the match, which certainly would have been more reliable. In fact, the NBDA should have appropriate guidelines to regulate those shows that lack scientific temperament and promote betting similar to the Election Commission’s guidelines to prohibit televising estimated poll results while the ballot is still in progress. Viewers are intellectual enough to yearn for factual information and it is high time the channels adopted a scientific temperament.

Such brash spectacles not only invite shame at the pitiful state of the media, but even disbelief in the science of astrology. Spirituality plays a big role in the ability to have intuitions to make predictions and it can only be attained by dressing in saffron clothes like a sadhu.

Astrological predictions only work in pure space with belief in supreme power and meditation rather than in studios with huge lights and cameras. The astrological rules of prediction prohibit even predictions after sunset. Such events are purely advertising and not with an astrological motive.

Astrology is a social service profession and is not entertainment. It is to fix the problems of those who are in trouble. Using astrological predictions for cricket matches, stock market, cryptography is not only unethical but a travesty of the sanctity of astrology. Astrology is meant to be practiced spiritually in a personal space. Predictions are not scripted texts that can be prepared and spelled out over the sound of lights, camera and action. To reduce the pure science of astrology to an ostensibly attractive program for show business is seriously contrary to its true meaning.

News Channel created a circus ring with 11 astrologers syncing the script without any dignity. Was it the channel’s lack of trust in astrologers that it had to call not just a few, but a huge track eleven? The show killed the faith of viewers and the prestige of astrology. The question to ask is: who is responsible for the disinformation spread by the show? The 11 astrologers or the News Channel editor? The channel owes its viewers and astrology practitioners an apology.

(The author is a famous astrologer and palmist based in Delhi and can be contacted at [email protected])

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