'Kyunki... yeh meri jeb hai' to voice budget wish lists on Star News

NEW DELHI: In an effort to live up to its promise of 'aapko rakhe aage' (keeping the viewers interest in mind), which also is indicative of changes taking place in the company, Star News has presented a compilation of general people's Budget wishes to finance minister P Chidambaram.

The two-month long process is an initiative to "provide platforms" to viewers to air their thoughts. And, since a country's Budget, apart from highlighting economic policies, also affects the common man, Star News thought of this novel way to get closer to the masses that has the potential of translating into viewership.

"Besides setting the economic agenda of the country, a Budget also affects the common man directly in various ways. So, for a change, we thought we would provide a platform to the people to air their wish list before the government finalises its Budgetary proposals," Media Content & Communications Services (MCCS) Pvt Ltd CEO Uday Shankar told

MCCS is a 74:26 joint venture between the Kolkata-based ABP Group and the Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star that manages the Star News channel.

Pointing out that Kyunki?Yeh Meri Jeb Hai objective was to involve the populace in the budget-making process, thereby "promoting participatory governance" as well as instigating a debate on "what is good for the Indian economy and its stakeholders," Shankar said that Star News received thousands of responses to its question ? 'What are your expectations from the Union Budget 2005-06?'

Shankar, who personally presented a structured compilation of the people's wish list to the finance minister, said that Chidambaram was "very warm and receptive to this interactive initiative."

However, the Star News CEO also hastily added that it would be "too presumptuous and ambitious" on Star News' part to assume that the government is totally unaware of a majority of the issues that the people would like to be addressed in a Budget and which form part of the over 100 pages of responses from people obtained through snail and emails.

"The government is sensitive to many issues, but as part of Star News efforts to have the viewers' interest in mind this initiative was undertaken, unlike other channels where mostly experts air their views and that too after the Budget," Shankar said.

Such initiatives are indicative of the programming changes being effected in Star News after it recently underwent an on-air revamp. It also highlights that serious efforts are being made at Star News to claw its way up in a market that is primarily led by Aaj Tak and NDTV India.

Though Shankar pointed out that Kyunki? Yeh Meri Jeb Hai-type initiatives may not always be primarily targetted at gaining immediate viewership, he explained, "It's more inclined to build a relationship with the common man and provide him with platforms that other form of media have not been able to do."

The shift in the way events are now being covered by Star News is evident that more air time is being given to stories affecting the common man, rather than have "VVIP coverage," where the thrust is to cover prominent personalities.

Citing the on-going state election coverage on Star News, Shankar said camera units have gone to non-TRP cities in places like Bihar and Haryana to interact with people, bring them together and make them shoot their grievances directly to politicians, minus anchors and moderators.

"In some places like Saharsa, Purnea (in Bihar), the Star News-organised people-politician interaction have been as big as rallies with hundreds and thousands pouring in," Shankar said, pointing out that such initiatives were not targetted towards ratings.

Similarly, local events, like school children?s kidnapping in Kolkata and elsewhere have been played up by Star News with a view not only to cover them, but take a stand so that administration is forced to take some action.

At the cost of sounding cliched, Shankar said with conviction, "Our coverage of news is now more geared to contribute in whatever little way towards a better world."

It has to be seen whether the viewers too agree and come flocking to Star News, which some time in the future would translate into good ratings and market share.

For the records, Star News market share for the week of 28 November, 2004, according to Tam, was 20 per cent, the same as NDTV India. Aaj Tak led with a 31 per cent market share. For the week of 19 December, 2004, Star News' share was 20 per cent, one per cent behind NDTV India, while Aaj Tak continued to rule with 31 per cent market share. For the week of 23 January, 2005, Star News' share stood at 19 per cent, NDTV India had 22 per cent, while Aaj Tak?s share had fallen a percentage to 32 from the previous week's 33.

Kyunki... Common man too has a budget wish list

The Budget coverage process of Star News has thrown up responses that range from interesting to quirky.

Forty-five per cent of the responses pertained to modifications in the current income tax regime ranging from re-structured slabs to increased rebates. Twenty five per cent of the respondents were concerned about the rise in prices of products such as sugar, petrol and LPG and wanted the FM to initiate measures to contain the same.

Interest rates on home and car loans dominated the minds of 11 per cent of the respondents, while changes in the indirect tax structure were the primary recommendations of another 10 per cent.

The large number of respondents recommending a change in the current income tax regime clearly indicated that the populace at large wanted the government to initiate measures, which would increase the disposable income in the hands of the tax payer. But the diverse nature of IT recommendations received by Star News also demonstrated the complexity of the task at hand for the FM.

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