3 'Cs' lord over politics on news channels

MUMBAI: Talk to any Hindi news channel honcho today and s/he will invariably tell you that what drives viewership are the three 'Cs' - cricket, cinema and crime - not politics.

Affirmation of that can be seen in a new study by the Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies, which shows news channels have undergone a radical transformation, whereby the news has not only changed in its definition and content, but also in the manner in which it is presented. A rise in comedy and reality shows; the emergence and establishment of trivia in news; and most significantly, the end of political news dominance; this is the face of the news channels today, the study says.

Click to see graph in full scale

The research indicates that TV news today is no longer political, but has become more augmented, with sports, entertainment, and crime stories being an integral part of the news in bulletins. It is not surprising then that a decrease in the number of political stories has coincided with a rise in the number of sports, entertainment, crime and human interest stories.

According to CMS Media Lab, the time spent on political news in the year 2007 has come down by more than 50 per cent, as compared to 2005 (from 23.1 per cent in 2005 to 10.09 per cent in 2007), and the sports, entertainment, crime and human interest news have more than doubled (from 27.9 per cent in 2005 to 53.1 per cent in 2007). At the same time, agriculture, education, health and environment news have not seen any net change; their coverage has been as insignificant in 2007as earlier (see graph).

The rise of trivia in news is what has made channels like India TV and Star News market leaders today, the report argues. Their success with stories of ghost hunting, celebrity tracking, has prompted other channels to follow suite, CMS Media Lab avers. Star News also introduced another successful experiment of integrating Bollywood and cricket in the prime time slot, a move that helped end Aaj Tak's reign at the top.

The study also finds that locations from where news is presented have also undergone change. Instead of the field, studio discussions (graphics, dramatization, features) and live footage have become integral to news today.

2007 has been a year of experimentation for the news channels; with respect to content (incorporating reality shows, comic programmes etc), style, presentation and some channels even experimenting with new names (like Janmat becoming Live India) and a new fleet of presenters.

With the national news channel space already heavily competitive and cluttered, 2007 saw the entry of new city/region specific news channels in the market. For the coming year, the battleground will be the regional space, the report predicts. 

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