Television

News should be a paid asset

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BENGALURU: Whether it’s the political battle that’s unraveling in the country, or it’s a terrorist attack, news always interests people. But is news as interesting as a gossip piece about a celebrity? This and a lot of other points were raised at the first day of the FICCI MEBC (Media and Entertainment Business Conclave) that saw a session that discussed the news genre. The discussion brought up several points including viewership data, content that is being broadcast and the current situation of the genre as a whole.

The panellists included BBC World News India COO Preet Dhupar, Udayvani group editor Ravi Hegde, Suvarna News editor Anantha Chinivar, Former CNN IBN journalist Veeraraghav, columnist Aakar Patel, NDTV resident editor Maya Sharma and IIM Bangalore dean Dr S Raghunath. The session was moderated by journalist Prakash Belawadi.

After the entire discussion, the panelists concluded that the genre relies heavily on advertising, thus restricting the kind of content that can be produced. At the same time, viewership data such as TAM (Television Audience Measurement) is needed because advertisers depend on such data to pool their money where they want to. “Producing news is expensive and that is why all channels have panel discussions in their primetime slot. It is cheaper than sending an OB van to some far off place and spend huge amount,” said Sharma.

Another point brought up during the discussion was about “sensationalising news”. The reason why many times news is sensationalised is because entertainment is more prominent than news. So, news journalists need to adapt to the entertainment form of style in order to grab eyeballs. But at the same time just getting viewers will not help because everyone is also looking for credibility of news, including the people watching it and the ones dispersing the news. Channels keep a close watch on other channels to know what they are reporting.

However, Hegde differed as he remarked that “media was not entertainment but a serious job”. Hegde, who comes from a print background, said that it’s a newspaper’s job to clear the confusion that channels have created the previous night for the viewers.

Talking about the revenue generated through advertising, Hegde said that most of the advertisements to newspapers come for the editions in the metros, making it difficult to distribute papers in the rural areas.

To this, Chinivar pointed that in order to beat entertainment news, the need to sensationalise news comes up.

Columnist Patel thinks that the standard of journalism in India is poor because of lack of good training and low salaries.

Veeraghav brought to fore the speculative nature of the Indian viewers that the channels have to continuously face. He remarked how many people question news channels’ nature to delve into the future, but they always want to know the future not what has happened. “If I tell a viewer that elections are going to happen, the first thing he will ask me is can you tell me who is going to win?” he said.

Although many channels have taken a strong stand against the TAM accusing it of fudging data to benefit advertisers, all the panellists agreed that there needs to be some kind of tracking to know the viewership for channels and newspapers because it is ultimately a business.

The fact that news is free is what makes it so volatile. “When you have to pay for your news, it will be taken seriously and that’s when the kind of news you get will also become better,” said Sharma. With digitisation coming in, they hope that some system will come in to place to help them get more revenues. News will become a paid asset in the future. “As long as news is free you cannot live without TAM or IRS,” Veerraghav ended.

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