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TV news industry should look inwards

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MUMBAI: The electronic news industry in India is in a bad shape. There is an over-dependence on advertising income, too many players (including some non-serious ones) occupy the space, content has degraded, and pressure is on revenues.

If things remain this way, the future of electronic news is not very bright. This was the general consensus of the panel which debated on “The Future of Electronic News”.

The session, moderated by Indiantelevision Dot Com founder, CEO and Editor-n-Chief Anil Wanvari, had TV Today Network executive director and CEO G Krishnan, MCCS CEO Ashok Venkataramani, UTV Global Broadcasting CEO MK Anand and CNBC Awaaz editor Sanjay Pugalia in the panel.

Venkataramani said that the time had arrived for the TV news industry to look inwards. Talking about content, he said he couldn’t remember the last time when a 24-hour news channel broke a story that was followed by the print media the next day. He also pointed out that it is not necessary to dramatise content.

Venkataramani remarked that unlike BBC, Indian channels don’t invest in documentaries. “We have not seen value in that,” he said.

He also pointed out that the utilisation of their biggest investment – OB Vans – is less than 20 per cent. “60 per cent of the time, these vans spend in travelling from one place to other, 20 per cent of time they are idle, and the remaining time is when they are used for live reporting. Which business can grow where the biggest asset has a utilisation of under 20 per cent?” he asked.  

Despite news channels having national network and bureaus, 40-45 per cent of the stories are coming from the stringers, Venkatarmani added.

Pugalia took a cue from Venkataramani and spoke about the lack of confidence in the editorial operations. He said that reporters were made editors when they should have done reporting for 10 more years. “So they don’t have an idea of what can work and lose confidence in their own content. Every morning, instead of thinking what we are doing today, we think of what the other channels have done.”

He also blamed the non-serious players for the degradation in content. He said that because one player is showing frivolous content, everyone is following that. "We need to break ourselves out of the the rat race and kick out the intruders and non-serious players. It is wrong to give frivolous content in the name of competition.”

The panellists agreed that digitisation would help the industry grow.

“There has been a huge delay in the digitisation and it is a clear roadblock, which has become a spiralling problem. All stakeholders must try to find out a solution in the immediate future. Digitisation will also bring down carriage costs,” Krishnan said.

According to Anand, the low entry barrier by the government has added to the woes of the industry. While competition is dividing the pie, there is not much room for growth. Managing the cost is also an issue, he added.

Venkataramani said the industry should invest in content production and delivery for news breaks.

  

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