For the sake of news

Q) Should the sanctity of News be sacrificed at the altar of profits? At the end of the day, the channels have to be profitable?

Conversely if the news channels truly focus on giving you a path breaking news experience they would have audience flocking to them. Once audience comes in advertising is bound to follow. There are too many content calls that get taken basis brands that can be attracted to that content. This needs to stop, and more and more focus should be on creating consumer engagement

Q) Should News about Entertainment and Reality Shows be a part of Prime Time News content? What if this is the case today?

The news channels have to decide which business they are in. If the viewer wants to watch soaps and gossip about soaps, they have a variety of channels and facebook and you tube and net forums. The last place an average viewer wants to catch soaps are news channels. I know the channels will quote that these programmes are successful, but have the channels ever evaluated the impact of such programmes on its brand equity? Does this not dilute its ability to deliver authenticity and believability? There is a serious crisis of trust that most news channels are facing, and they seem to fuel the flippant side of brand, rather than the authentic side Q) Earlier, news channels and their people were popular enough to pull TRPs riding on the hardcore news content. Now they say they had to change because of the audience choice. What exactly is responsible for the current scenario? The news channels themselves are responsible. It’s the news channels that decided to dilute their ability to deliver news in an engaging manner, and invest in programming. They looked at easy way out, and do programming that costs next to nothing and try and get advertising revenue. Unfortunately it is hurting them and brands that are being advertised on them. They are sitting on a tinderbox that will explode, and in the process force them to reinvest in news.

Q) Besides self introspection by the channels, what factor can bring the news back?

Nothing, but self introspection. They need to take a longer view of the business they are in, and build muscle in that arena. No channel ever faced a crisis if it did what it is supposed to do in engaging ways, and in a manner that made it an icon. Deliver news in the most authentic way, with most engaging tone, and you will have audience flocking to you

Q) As an industry observer, do you think that the current scenario is really helping the channels to earn as per their potential with the fact that the difference in the market share of two channels is almost negligible?

The channels are making it difficult for themselves by becoming like a commodity. CNN is not same as BBC. There is a brand tonality, and a brand personality that is reflected even when they report on same thing, with same news feed. Unfortunately that is not true of most Indian news channels. The fact is that most of these channels are new, they don’t have the baggage of heritage, they can be lean mean and hungry, they can add a dimension to news that has been missing, they can reflect the viewpoint of a young and restless nation, sadly none of this is visible with the news channels today

Q) Advertisers look at the TRPs and content both before spending. Do you see any way out for the channels and the audience? Is there any ray of hope?

I think there is a space for a true news channel that reflects the reality of the audience that is today. I personally believe that the channels need to step out of self imposed boundaries, be serious about their craft, put a value of seriousness on themselves, or may be launch a show called ‘news ke muzrim”. Till then they will live with this persecution complex and feel that audience is not interested in real news. Sad news for news channels is that they have got it all wrong. As always the issue is will they listen?

Done for Zee News for the sake of news initiative

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