Dangerous trends in TV news broadcast

NEW DELHI: Talk shows, personality-driven news channels, outraged journalism and populist pressures tailoring news content. These are some of the dangerous trends visible in television news broadcasting across the globe.

The TV news industry is, indeed, going through a tough phase as losses mount and ratings decide the revenue fortunes of channels, forcing content to become trivial, mediocre and commoditised to have mass appeal.

Speaking at the 5th News Television Summit, TV Today Network news director QW Naqvi candidly admitted that content that should never have found space sometimes got carried on news channels due to commercial pressures.

The taste of viewers has also changed. "We should stop looking from our own perspective. Content keeps changing and we have to keep changing,” said Naqvi.

A bigger danger looms ahead when feedback from social media starts getting used by TV news journalists to decide on what kind of content they should be chasing. "We will fall prey to populistic pressures if we start covering stories the way our Twitter or other social media followers want us to," Naqvi warned.

Agreed IBN18 Network Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai. "I wouldn‘t mind leaving space for entertainment and other kinds of news. But imagine what it will be like if we start yielding to populist pressure when we are dealing with serious and sensitive issues like India-Pakistan relationship," he said.

There is still, however, space for quality content. "Digitisation, hopefully, will allow space for premium content. In the current model, distribution cost is hurting us badly. Content is getting sacrificed in the process. There is very little of content differentiation," said Sardesai.

Commenting on content differentiation, NDTV Group Editor- English News, NDTV, NDTV 24x7 Barkha Dutt said the news channels will become more personality-oriented in future.

Lamenting the deterioration in news, Dutt said she would probably have not joined the TV news medium if she had known how badly the standards would slip. She said that being the first generation of TV journalists, she didn’t join it for glamour.

Sardesai admitted that journalists have stopped doing their homework. Quoting the example of the “Norway kids case” where every news channel blamed the government of that country, he said that no journalist cared to do the background check. He added that outrage is not journalism and suggested that journalists should keep a balance.

On the use of social media, the panellists adopted a cautionary stance. While Dutt said that she sometimes used it as a lead, Naqvi pointed out that there is need to differentiate between news and non-news.

The challenge will be to provide news through different platforms. Said Sardesai, “With social media, TV medium has to reinvent like print did. In about 12 months’ time, people will come to know the news headlines via social media. They will tend to come to TV for opinions."

CNN International chief of bureau South Asia Phillip Turner said that TV news is an exciting medium and is not going to be dead as predicted by many.

Talking about the regional scenario, TV9 Kannada and News9 director Mahendra Mishra said in regional markets, especially in South India, there are many channels backed by politicians or people with deep pockets who have money to waste. "The main motive of the channels is to gain power and influence and not necessarily run a profitable business," he averred.

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