MUMBAI: Sensationalism vs old style journalism: The debate on highly opinionated journalism vs plain reporting of events as a journalist can be unending. But when it comes to highly capital intensive television journalism, the debate boils down to viewership and its monetisation.
Times Now Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami's brand of aggressive journalism, some call it sensationalism while the man himself describes it as passionate journalism, was the subject of a panel discussion on 'The Big Fight For Primetime' at FICCI Frames 2014.
NDTV Editor Vishnu Som, when prodded by BBC Global News Senior Anchor Jon Sopel, said "An editor's job is to provide news. I believe Arnab does infotainment."
Som though admitted that the issues taken up by Goswami are valid but his style and way of presenting is different. "We cannot be aggressive beyond a point. I don't think it is for journalists to define news. You just report it," said Som.
News that does not get the eyeballs is not good enough content from the monetisation point of view. "If it does not get good ratings, it is not good content. It is all about viewers. That connect has to be there. If not, it cannot be monetised," said Zee Media group CEO Bhaskar Das, claiming Goswami's primetime show advertisement slots sell for Rs 25,000 per 10 seconds, while it could be Rs 20,000 for NDTV and is barely Rs 2,000 for Zee News.
Arnab has made himself a brand and he has been rewarded for it, said Das, who was with the Times of India group when Times Now was launched.
MCCS India CEO Ashok Venkataramani said brand building is equal to the charge of your slots and once you have built a brand, the ad slot charge can be higher than what the ratings demand. "The best way to get advertising revenue is by stopping TRPs. My Hindi and Marathi and Bangla channels don't get high revenue because of ratings but because they are premium channels." MCSS owns ABP group of news channels.
NDTV's Som said, "We dont believe in TAM. We have done five studies to know that we are the number one channel and people may disagree. What the advertisers are looking at right now is corrupted data (in the form of TAM ratings)."
The news television industry is heavily dependent on advertising revenues and the quality of journalism is directly impacted by the revenue flow. "If advertisers cut rates, we can't do good journalism," Som said.