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    Posted on 13 July 2012

    ‘People choose the zoo over the jungle’

    Hardtalk host Tim Sebastian talks about how people fail to make use of their democracy

    Arkadev Ghoshal
    New Delhi

    Tim Sebastian (second from left) in New Delhi on Thursday with UTV Bloomberg officials

    Photo: Naveesh

    PEOPLE REMEMBER him as the tough-as-nails host of a famous BBC one-on-one tv interview show, whose very name brought beads of sweat on many a prominent personality’s forehead.

    Tim Sebastian, the hard-nosed inquisitor for seven and-a-half-years on Hardtalk, will now chair a debate series focused exclusively on India. So what exactly does Sebastian wish to achieve with The Outsider — the show that will air globally from August? Does he wish to reach out to the man on the street?

    “I don’t think there’s a man on the street, is there?” he retorts. “Somebody told me that two people meet on the street in Delhi. They don’t speak the same language, they don’t like the same things, they don’t listen to the same music, they don’t read the same books. So when you talk about getting the man on the street, which one?”

    The conversation turns to the current political situation in India, about Time magazine calling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh an ‘underachiever’, and he asks back, “Why is that so shocking to India? It seems to have got so many headlines. People seem to be up in arms (about it). We say far worse about our politicians every single day! We wouldn’t even notice that!”

    However, he also adds that because the situation is so varied and changing so fast, it is difficult just to take a snapshot of it and say ‘this is the situation in India’. “A few years ago, it was ‘India Shining’. Now, it’s 25 crore people going hungry, businesses and government are at each other’s throat and mass graves turning up in Jammu and Kashmir,” he says.

    “The mood shifts. It’s in flux, and maybe that’s healthy! Because if it were the opposite: if you were stuck in the same autocratic rule year after year — as people in the Middle East have been, and some countries still are — believe me, that would be worse.”

    According to him, democracy is a chaotic thing. “Nobody ever said it was a great system. They just said it was better than others,” he says. After a short pause, he poses a question that is bound to stump anyone: “Do you think most of the world wants to live in a jungle or a zoo?

    He proceeds to answer the conundrum himself:

    “Unfortunately, I think most people would choose the zoo. They don’t want to take the risks of the jungle. Isn’t that depressing? Maybe it signals a massive failure in the democratic system.”

    “The loss of the will to bring about change can indeed be considered a failure of democracy, which runs on the people’s will to change the way their country is being run.

    From The Outside Looking In

    Arkadev Ghoshal
    New Delhi

    TIM SEBASTIAN of BBC ’s Hardtalk fame will anchor debates on ‘social, political and economic issues faced by India’. Slated to be aired from August, this 13-part series is part of Bloomberg-UTV’s plans to reinvent its identity and increase its reach, says Sriram Kilambi, President of the company.

    The series, dubbed The Outsider, is being developed in association with Sobo films, and will feature not only eminent experts, but also 150-200 people in the audience from all walks of life. At the beginning of each episode, the participants will be asked to vote for or against the topic at hand; the result would not be revealed right then. At close, the poll would be conducted again, and the result of the two polls would be compared to see how many people — if any — had changed sides.

    Speaking at the launch of the show, Kilambi said, “Most business-related tv channels fall in the buy-hold-sell category today. We want to create a new category: the ‘business’ category.” He added that the effort would be to make business easy to understand.

    The programme is slated to tackle a slew of topics, from dynastic politics to corruption. It will aim to stage a ‘fair debate’, said Sebastian. “We want to join the incredibly vibrant debating forum that India is today, but we want to do it in a way that tries to unpick the things that a few of you take for granted,” he explained.

    The debate’s aim would be to ‘shine a very bright spotlight on a country that represents a global powerhouse of ideas,” said Sebastian. “I want to engage more young people. I want them to think clearly.

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    Posted on 13 July 2012



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