LookBack 2012: Paritosh Joshi: It was roses, roses all the way

27 Dec,2012

By Paritosh Joshi


Robert Browning wrote many a memorable verse but for me, this line, with which he blasts into ‘The Patriot” is one of his most memorable ever. If this causes you to furiously Google the great poet and discover the lyrical beauty and ferocious power of lines like ”Inscribe all human effort with one word,  Artistry’s haunting curse, the Incomplete!” or ”That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, Lest you should think he never could recapture, The first fine careless rapture!” this columnist should be gratified of a good day’s worth of work.


Where were we? It was roses all the way. Yes, you are entirely right in inferring that this is one more of those ‘looking back, looking forward’ type of pieces that Decembers every year are endemic with. That is where the similarity ends, I hope, for one reason only: most will leave you convinced that the past year was best put behind us and forgotten; such was the mishaps that it was characterized by. This one proposes to go exactly the opposite way and… you shall see.


Television had a great year.


Digitalization got going. If there is one event that marks a huge watershed for every aspect of our television lives, this is it. Long in coming; remember that CAS dates back to exactly a decade earlier; it is ‘der ayad, durustayad’, and having arrived in tandem with addressability, it couldn’t be better. Seeing the back of the era of choked pipes and content scarcity and heralding in broad pipes and contentabundance is going to force change right across the value chain. In the medium term, the next 2-3 years, expect a huge revival in investment interest in the business.


BARC was born. Getting IBF, ISA and AAAI to agree to become equity partners in a joint venture that truly breaks new ground at the global level in the way Joint Industry Bodies (JIBs) work in the audience measurement space was in and of itself a huge win. The leaderships of all three deserve fulsome applause for steering it through crazy twists and turns. Given the huge dependence that so many broadcast businesses have, and will have, on advertising revenue, and given also the huge dependence many consumer businesses have on media buys that bring them audiences that will become consumers, everyone has a huge stake in building a reliable, comprehensive, accountable measurement system. With BARC, this becomes an objective that we can realistically aspire to.


BCCC and NBSA built momentum. Every time our society is faced with issues that trouble us deeply, some attention will always turn to the role the media played in exacerbating or attenuating them. Most times, unfortunately, the media will be vilified for contributing to worsening the issue rather than fixing it. There will be accusations of irresponsibility, tabloid sensationalism, placing commercial interest above public good and so on. More than ever, these are the times when the media should be able to point to regulatory mechanisms that guard the consumer against media misdemeanour. We should all hope that BCCC and NBSA will grow into institutions that enjoy wide acceptance for dispensing fair and transparent self-regulation.


Carriage costs headed south. Now this is an outcome of digitalization for sure, but it warrants a mention by itself. Why? Because an entire genre that plays the very serious role of the fourth estate, the News, was in near terminal jeopardy with the onerousness of this burden. You can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from News broadcasters as they look forward to an era of better economics and the ability to invest back into better news gathering, editing and presentation.


On to Print now.


RSCI began to fire. The Audit Bureau of Circulation and its National Readership Survey (NRS) had already signed truce with the Media Research Users Council and its Indian Readership Survey (IRS) leaving the IRS as the unified study of readership in 2011. However, the progeny, the Readership Studies Council of India really gathered momentum this year. A new vendor for the IRS will take over responsibility from the incumbent very soon and a dramatically transformed survey will land on your desks, with much more insight and depth of understanding than ever before, during the second half of the year to follow.


Consolidation picked up. Smaller publications with strong local franchises are beginning to see the wisdom in hitching their wagons to the big stars. And this is no bad thing. In many instances, the new owners realize the merit in leaving the editorial stances largely alone while aiding in investments where they are sorely necessary, such as newsgathering and technology. The outcomes are beneficial to the acquired and the acquirer. Expect this to remain a theme for quite a while to come.


Digital became plat du jour. Not just the big guns, even small publications in regional languages began to see audiences shifting to consuming their content on digital devices. Everyone is now conscious that 4G and Akash tablet in tandem represent a giant wave, one that they can ride the crest of or get inundated by. While everyone is still struggling to get a handle on the monetization models available to turn digital into cold, hard cash, the inevitability will focus many good minds on cracking this problem, and crack it they will.


So there you have it. A good year by any standard! Since I began with Browning, I am tempted to end with him too, thus.


”we two

With life forever old yet new,
Changed not in kind but in degree,
The instant made eternity-”


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