Union Budget: CNN-IBN presents layman’s wish-list to Jaitley

MUMBAI: With the Union Budget round the corner, news broadcasters often get into overdrive mode in order to attract maximum eyeballs. In order to have an edge over the competition, both the general and the business news channels develop and broadcast unique content on their respective platforms. However, over the last three years, viewers’ interest has shifted from business news channels to English general news channels for special coverage on the Union Budget 2016, informs CNN IBN managing editor Radhakrishnan Nair. 

“Sponsors are also moving to general news channels as they are creating content from the people’s point of view with a very people centric concept,” explains Nair.

With some business news channels claiming to be the final authority on budget programming, a few English general news are now attempting to go out of their way to cover the budget from a layman's point of view outside the news room.

One such channel is CNN-IBN, which has constantly taken the aspirations of a common man into account for the past 10 years and has put forth the wish list to the finance minister. Talking about the meeting with Arun Jaitley, Nair says, “We go to the finance minister every year with a small request, which we call Axe The Tax. Usually whenever budget happens, every industry group,  industrial organisations and sectors of the economy go to the finance minister with a wish-list. But there is no way a normal taxpayer could communicate his expectations to the minister. We believe that as a news channel, we should take up these issues and present it to the official spokesperson asking for a few changes.”

India has a complicated tax system with laws, which are too old and have not changed with the times. “Every year we go with five taxes that we think the government should act on. The basic idea is to present certain small things that can be done in keeping with times,” adds Nair.

Apart from Axe the Tax, the channel will also air other shows like If I Were FM, Budget on Campus, Budget Yatra, Budget and Politics and Corporate Wishlist in its special programming line-­up - The Budget Booster.

The channel has roped in Renault as the sponsor for the Budget centric shows. “You will see Renault as our sponsor in most of our coverage. We will see a lot of more brands coming in at the last minute before the budget,” informs Nair.

The channel, not only interacts with the common man through its website, but also utilises social media and digital platforms asking viewers about the provisions and laws that need to be rectified.  It also consults big tax experts in the country to figure out different personal taxes that are not included with time.

When asked about the various issues that were pointed out to the minister, Nair says, “One thing that we have been constantly asking from the finance minister is that the medical reimbursement allowance for all of us is just Rs 15,000 even for a salaried employee for a year i.e. approx Rs 1,250 a month. With the medical and health cost going up, people will need more money. Last year, there were a few changes in the health insurance for the senior citizens.”

He further explains, “All the ministers that have met us have shared a warm and positive response and we aren’t even asking for anything big. They have also promised us to look into the list. We have also asked the government to lay down the guideline to levy service charge by the restaurants. At the end, consumers end up paying more than they are ideally supposed to. We also discussed issues that a common man faces while applying for income tax return. We observed a demand for an online system to file income tax returns. If I am filing my return electronically, any question can be directly answered by mail. The system will also simplify the procedure.”

The constant matter of discussion between the broadcasters, when it comes to placing their content for the viewers on TV, is the time slot. The primetime is often decided with where the majority of the viewers are. The channel expect to see a huge viewership spike during the budget period. 

With the primetime being shifted between 8 to 11 pm for news channels, it gets difficult for the heavy weights to pin-down an ideal time band for their content keeping in account the competition. Keeping everything in mind, the channel has placed its budget shows in the 10 pm time slot.

“The shows can play in the daytime but the mass is not there on TV. In our shows, we get people from across the country to talk about the budget where they explain their expectations. We would obviously want the viewers to be involved in the show,” Nair adds.

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