Television

"All our advertisers have their cheque books ready for Popstars III..." : Amar Deb Channel [V] VP-content and communication

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There is no method in his madness, yet delivering mind-blowing content is what drives Channel [V]'s new captain, Amar Deb. The 30-something creative powerhouse is obsessed with taking music television to new dimensions.





A Bangalore boy, with an 'Admiral' father and a 'newsreader' mother, Deb moved to Mumbai in pursuit of the unknown. All he carried was a punching bag filled with his worldly possessions and life-size dreams to make it big.

Kicking off with voice-overs and jingles to pay for rent, coffee and soota (cigarettes), Deb shifted gears to become a copywriter. Four months later, his debut art direction effort was awarded a National Award for Public Awareness Advertising. And the rest, as they say, is history...





Deb's advertising years saw him work with agencies like Leo Burnett and Lintas, and adding loads of Abbys, CAGs (Communication Arts Guild) and other feathers in his cap. In 2001, Channel [V] offered him a new challenge, enticing him to turn things around at the placid music channel. That's when he made the switch as creative director for the channel.





An integral member of the team that has led [V] to achieve a modicum of success, Deb has created innovative programming like [V] Goddess and the Mind It campaign amongst others.





Taking time out from 'creating madness' at [V], Deb spoke to indiantelevision.com's Hetal Adesara about his responsibilities, the channel's programming setup and his future plans.

Excerpts:

How do you see programming in music channels in India evolving?



As far as Channel [V] is concerned, we have been on the leading edge of programming with innovations like PopStars, Patli Gali and [V] Dares You. So we will continue to lead the pack in terms of innovations.

What is the programming breakup at Channel [V]?



As of now, it's 75:25 (Hindi:English) but it's very dynamic. Two years ago, there was Dil Chahta Hai, so at that time it would have peaked to 90:10. There were a couple of other Hindi movies that were also launched at that time which had terrific content. So we keep our programming mix very dynamic.

What are your views on CAS? If it is implemented, how will it affect the channel?



If CAS does come about, it will definitely affect our channel because we are the only pay channel in the music genre. However, I am very confident of our content and also sure that the viewers would demand it by paying for it.

As far as reality shows are concerned, after Crush, Patli Gali and Viva, it's now the Channel [V] Popstars II - Aasma. How well has the reality genre worked for you and what is the response that Aasma is getting?



The response is absolutely amazing. We went to launch the album two days before the concert at Planet M at Shopper's Stop in Mumbai. There were so many kids lined up there that it was very difficult to walk past them. They knew every single word of Aasma's song Chandu Ke Chacha and also the steps. That song had played on air only for five days. So Aasma is a phenomenon. It's not only the product of a show - it is a fantastic band.





At the concert, there were 40,000 people which has never happened anywhere in our country. The cops had to turn away 20,000 people as there were issues of counterfeit passes and all sorts of crazy things happening just because people wanted to come and see Aasma. I think it has done really well for us.

"I am very confident of our content and also sure that viewers would demand it by paying for it, if CAS comes about"

What next? Is Popstars III in the reckoning?



We are examining all our possibilities. What I can say right now is that all our viewers want it. All our advertisers have their cheque books ready. Everyone wants to back it again. So let's see...

How do you conceptualise a programme?



Oh, I typically wake up in a tent somewhere in the middle of a mountain and think of a wild idea and then come to office and ask my gang to work on it.





Well... jokes apart... actually we have a bunch of department heads, very talented young kids. We all sit down and brainstorm, we identify gaps in our programming or gaps in a particular genre and we plug them.

How important is a VJ to a music channel?



VJs are absolutely critical to a music channel because they represent the personality of the channel. They are the best part of music television.





In our case, for instance, Gaurav is India's funniest man. Yudi has a fan following in the club circuit like no one else. Kim is style personified. Purab is the heart throb of the nation. Women are crazy about him. And Shruti is our latest secret weapon. Just wait and watch what we do with her.

What framework do you operate on in terms of the language used and body displayed in the music videos, if any?



We have a very strict music policy. Every video that comes in, goes through a system of checks and balances before it is passed. We have extremely stringent norms. We have an internal audit system which is called S&P - Standards & Practices. A music video only plays on air if it passed by them.





We always insist on a 'U' certificate if we find the content to be slightly strange.

"Extreme violence, vulgarity are a no no. But there is a difference between vulgarity and sensuality. We must be mature enough to appreciate the difference"

Music videos like 'Kaanta Laga', 'Chadti Javani' and most of the new remixes that are floating all over the channels have vulgar steps, half clad women and suggestive lyrics. Should there be a censor on this?



There needs to be a regulatory policy with every record label. Record labels are the ones who make these videos. We are merely a channel which plays them. We of course at our end have the S&P department that I spoke about and we also have a team at music programming that whets every video before it goes on air.





In fact, we at Channel [V] even edit suggestive parts out of the video. To give an example, we have been known to be very very difficult. The record industry knows that. And it's not only with vulgarity but also things like smoking, alcohol and violence is edited by us out of the videos. So even the videos which have played, the so-called controversial videos have been edited by us before airing.

What according to you is taboo in television programming?



That's a good question and a tough one too! I think it depends on the genre of each channel. Extreme violence, vulgarity are definitely a no no. But then again, there is a difference between vulgarity and sensuality. So we must be mature enough to appreciate the difference.

What is your opinion on Anupam Kher being appointed as the new censor board chief?



Mr Kher is a fantastic professional and I really respect him. I'm sure he'll do a good job. He's been on both sides of the camera and both sides of the fence. He has the right sensibility.

Kher has said in recent interviews that he wants to censor television and that it is embarrassing to watch the recent music videos on television with family members and it has adverse effects on children. What are your comments on this?



I appreciate this point. There have been a couple of videos that have pushed the limit. It is interesting to note that some of these controversial videos came with a 'U' certificate from the censor board itself. We, at Channel [V], put even those videos through our S&P department and they were edited before they were put on air. We did not air the controversial ones which did not come with a 'U' certificate. Star has a very strong S&P cell which only deals with content.

Youth channels abroad have graduated from being merely music channels to including other genres - reality, adventure, experimental… which path will [V] take?



All the genres that are mentioned have been pioneered by Channel [V] in India. Take for instance Popstars - reality, Panga - adventure, Crush - romance. All are revolutionary ideas which have been pioneered by us.





The best suggestions that I have is that you keep watching us. We have lots in store.

James Murdoch evinced keen interest in [V] during its initial days. Does he take as much interest even now?



Very much so. James is very closely associated with whatever we do. He does evince a very keen interest in the channel. It's a pleasure to have him around. He's been associated with his own record label and so he's got a great perspective to give us.

[V] in terms of advertising has been perceived as riding piggyback on more successful siblings like Star Plus. What is the situation today - how much advertising does [V] manage to attract on its own?



Channel [V] is a very strong brand by itself. Yes, the association with Star has strengthened that hand but the trust that advertisers have had in Channel [V] has always been there. We have a separate sales team that deals with only Channel [V]. In that manner, we do attract our own advertising.

What are your plans? Will you graduate from a music channel back to advertising or move on to films? Where do you see yourself in the future?



I love music television, so the chances of me going back to advertising or heading off and making a movie are very unlikely to say the least. I enjoy working with Star and music television and I think right now this is the best place for me to be.

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