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Editors give thumbs up to branded content, if it doesn’t interfere with quality

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MUMBAI: While the business heads and sales heads are worried about how to keep revenues growing, the editors are concerned about keeping them away from getting into their editorial decisions. Discussing exactly this was a panel at the 7th Indian News Television Summit that saw ITV Network editor in chief Deepak Chaurasia, senior columnist and veteran journalist QW Naqvi and Mi Marathi consultant and former IBN Lokmat chief editor Nikhil Wagle that was moderated by indiantelevision.com group founder, CEO and editor in chief Anil Wanvari.

The discussion started off with Wanvari asking them how much would allow business heads to interfere with the editorial. Naqvi said that a business target should not influence editorial decision. Wagle said that he is aware that business is needed to run a channel but ‘without interference the channel can be profitable.’

Chaurasiya was of the opinion that both need to be together for the business model to survive. “The company will go into loss if the model is wrong. The editorial should know the company’s profit and loss because it can’t be a loss  making business. However, sales and editorial should not have the authority to decide whether or not a story should be shown or the angle of the story be taken. If the marketing team will tell me that a particular party is giving money if we do this story and in this angle, then I would say I have surrendered myself to them,” he said.

Wanvari said that political parties were different from brands, to which Wagle said that he isn’t against sponsored programmes, if they are disclosed. “If I was an editor, either I will stop such content or resign,” he said. Naqvi said that he is fine with integration where the quality, judgment and quantity isn’t compromised. “A programme shouldn’t be made just to make a brand happy despite not having any value,” he pointed out.

Chaurasia however said that even a half an hour show with bad ratings will ruin his day’s average, so he hesitates while taking advertorial, despite the money. “Rather than think short term, I think its long term impact on my ad rates. 90 per cent advertisers want to make the show in their perspective,” he said. He was however worried about how with too many ads the time spent on the channel is decreasing.

Times Now editor in chief Arnab Goswami is a brand in himself, which is being used by the channel, said Wanvari asking whether the three of them would allow that to happen to them. “TAM ratings only give numbers, not reactions. When that can be analysed, the real worth of a brand will be known,” he said.

According to Chaurasia, with emergence of new channels and people shifting channels, it isn’t easy to keep brand loyalty. “Now-a-days people think that in four months, people will start asking for autographs while the first generation journalists have taken many years to prove their worth. They feel marketing will help them become this sooner,” he said.

Moving on to the digital play in the future, Naqvi said that there is no doubt about digital being the priority for all. But when Wanvari asked if the editor would go with the marketing to an advertiser, Chaurasia said, “My work is to do content and make them understand the meaning. I have to get them ratings, revenue is a different department.”

The regional space will see proliferation of digital in five years, according to Wagle, and long format journalism will be replaced by short form.

Responding to Wanvari’s question about syndicating shows like how Al Jazeera or BBC does, Naqvi said that when the format will turn to digital, they could think of creating content that could sell because then the audience becomes global. “For this, we will need good internet connectivity till the remotest corner of the country,” he said. However, he also pointed out that not too many channels will survive digitally because people will not want to clutter their phones, but won’t mind seeing a long list of channels on TV.

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