Hindi news channels see tough Muqabala

India TV CEO Chintamani Rao says, "For India TV, it has been a good year. Two years ago we were number six or seven in the news channel category, with a five to six per cent share; today we are number three with a 17-18 per cent share. "

In 2007, Zee News was not steady in the numbers game starting the year with 13 per cent and ended with 10 per cent. With an annual average of 11.54 per cent, Zee News had its best runs of 14 per cent in the February and April period. From May with 12 per cent.

It reached it's lowest ebb of 9 per cent in September. Mid-September, incidentally, was also a time when the channel was headless after Harish Doraiswamy resigned from the CEO's position, following which MCCS executive vice-president Barun Das was roped in as CEO.

Global Broadcast News' IBN7 has an average annual share of 10.5 per cent, opening the account with 9 per cent in January. Though low in its numbers, IBN7 has been consistent, with the figures ranging between 9 to 12 per cent market share.

Ashutosh says, "About my own channel, we can say that we were bold enough to stand our ground saying. Whatever rubbish is going on the other channels, let them do it, but we shall not do that. I won't say we have been 100 per cent successful, but very, very successful and I am proud that we are probably the only Hindi news channel that can call itself a news channel."

He asserts, "We provoked ourselves to get news in the right perspective. We have been aggressive and this has given us excellent results, maybe not in terms of ratings, but in terms of perception. We have severely shaken up the political establishment repeatedly. "

Among the news broadcast majors though, it is NDTV India in particular that would like to leave behind 2007 as far as market share is concerned. Its average for the year - a highly disappointing 9.5 per cent. In January it was at 13 per cent, but drastically fell from June on when it stood at 9 per cent. In an attempt to get more eyeballs, NDTV India forayed into fiction by launching its weekly series Bombay Lawyers in July. It got only 8 per cent each in July and August, managed some uplift in September to 9 per cent, but slipped back to 8 per cent again in November and December.

In August, NDTV India saw a major change in leadership when Dibang stepped down as the managing editor. In his place, senior staffers Sanjay Ahirwal and Manish Kumar were entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the day-to-day news operations of the channel.

Narayan Rao says, "In terms of rating you have Aaj Tak at the top and then Star News and some others high up, but in terms of revenue we are still there right at the number two position. Ultimately, no advertiser would like to spend money beyond a point on such shows. So, if there has been an impact on viewership, there is no significant impact on revenues."

Punya Prasun Bajpai's taking over the content, the channel getting a revamp with a fresh look and feel and even changing its name could hardly contribute anything to Sahara's national Hindi news channel Samay. With an annual average market share of 5.1 per cent, the month-on-month figures have hovered around 4 to 6 per cent.

Likewise Broadcast Initiative's Live India re-positioning itself from a views channel to a news channel and its re-christening could not however save it from hitting rock bottom. Soon after being re-launched it was slapped a month's ban for a sting operation gone horribly wrong. However, it can take solace from the fact that it had 1 per cent market share in January, which has gone up to 4 per cent at the close of the year.

DD News on the other hand does not have a success story to its credit. DD News has to be satisfied with an annual average of 3.3 per cent of the market share.

Whatever the figures say though, news broadcasters across the board agree unanimously that there has been a lot of compromise in content.

Naqvi says, "No doubt, television news industry has grown at such a frantic pace, that it has created certain pitfalls. All out efforts in the past year were made to grab viewership. In this mad race, at times content was compromised and true journalism took a back seat. Compounding this malady, mushrooming news channels tended to water down the impact of many meaningful news reports."

Rao says, "If it says that on a certain night some news channel was number one, then more or less it works that way. It is another matter that that news channel was then showing a sex show. But that is for the viewer to decide. If he wants to see a sex show in news, it is his choice."

In the same breath news broadcasters also believe that "it is going to be hard hitting, proper investigative journalism that will have to come back to the news channels."

2008 would require the Hindi news channel market already flooded with more than 10 channels to accommodate a long list of channels waiting in the wings. B.A.G Films and Media News24 is the first one in the fray, with many others to follow in the year.

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