Television

NDTV India - Getting there

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The pace grips, the presentation rivets and the variety of news offered is enough to relax that itching finger on the remote control.

But the rate of re-runs of interviews, news and features on NDTV India during the course of a day is a major turn off. The Hindi offspring of Prannoy Roy?s ambitious two pronged news channel offerings has all the right ingredients in place; the right content married to right timing. ?The 15 years of breaking news? that underscore the efficient functioning of the channel are evident in every frame, every confident smile of the anchor. True, it may have had its share of glitches, but these have been few and far between compared to the other fledgling news channels, which lacked on-air experience.

Although one must admit that with the race hotting up this summer to claim numero uno status among the plethora of news channels, it is becoming more and more difficult to distinguish one from the other, NDTV?s quality is a class apart. But while its English sibling can boast of having the charismatic Roy on screen once in a while, NDTV India makes do without. True, it has other familiar faces one has been accustomed to on the erstwhile Star News and others like Dibang (who defected from Aaj Tak) being touted about as the new stars on the horizon.

Where NDTV India scores is on the presentation front. The programming slots like Aapka Shaher (akin to City 60 on Star News), Namaskar India (Star Breakfast News on Star News), Yeh Hai India, Bollywood Hollywood and India Bole have a ringing similarity with those on rival channels. It is innovative camerawork, confident reporting, some intelligent probing by the anchors that however hold the viewer.

The fleet of helicopters pressed into service must be helping. NDTV?s impressive network of correspondents is everywhere, Pune, Hyderabad, Patna, Chennai ? they cover the gamut in a matter of minutes. The cache with the political bigwigs and other celebs is obviously a big help. You have Laloo Prasad Yadav spouting shayari from Bihar to Rajdeep Sardesai and you have Rani Mukherjee playfully throttling Chunmun Das after an interview session. The camaraderie translates as easy viewing, involving the viewer in the shared rapport between interviewer and interviewee. Political stories take up nearly half the programming, the rest divided between softer human interest, a little business news and then Bollywood info.

The background score is pacy, the revolving ?24 ghante? that serve as a backdrop to flashing news every half hour also gives the impression of a dynamic newsroom. The studios are simple, but classy, without the clutter of a hundred monitors and flitting staff in the background seen on some other channels. The channel?s signature colours ? orange, grey and white and the prominent crimson dot have good recall value. But the logo, innovatively placed in the bottom left corner, crammed between the time, the temperatures in leading metros and the news scroll, is lost. To a viewer accustomed to flicking channels by looking for the logo in the usual top right corner, this can be confounding, till of course, he stays on for the content to hold his interest.

The twin NDTV channels have tried innovative tracks like venturing onto Iraqi streets for a poll on what they think of the American invasion. The exercise needed guts, perseverance and sensitive questioning, all of which has been managed pretty well and showcased on primetime. The channel also went the Good Samaritan way like the rest of the new news channels by picking out a forgotten actor, Rakesh Khanna, narrating his plight and then having the film industry pour aid for him. The plaudits it fetched were dutifully played out on the channel at least seven times in the span of as many hours this Thursday, but perhaps the channel is assuming that the same viewer does not return to check for fresh news on the hour!

The same was the story with the innocuous interview with Rani Mukherjee and badminton star P Gopichand. With a correspondent network as vast as it does have, NDTV probably needs to have fresh news oftener. The news scrolls are uptodate enough, but interspersed at more than regular intervals with exhortations to the viewer to contact the cable operator if he/she doesn?t receive NDTV 24x7. Hopefully, that?s a passing phase.

The channel has been aggressive with its outdoor promotions, hoardings all over the country are attempting to entice the discerning viewer (no clear urban slant visible here) into watching the channel that shows ‘khabar wohi jo sach dikhaye‘ (the channel that portrays the truth). Roy has vowed to resist political pressure ? thus far, there hasn?t been occasion to witness any journalistic daredevilry, though.

The ad breaks are innovatively being filled with short films on the girl child, the NDTV team?s glorious past and the plight of women in the country. Though it does have McDonald?s, Motorola and Raj Travels on its roster, advertising is clearly yet to pick up for the fledgling channel.

Given the track record of the talented and tenacious team, that, hopefully, should not be too difficult.

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