#FF14 Day 2: Traditional or sensationalism – what works more for primetime?

14 Mar,2014

By A Correspondent


The tone for the session was already set by the speaker from the earlier session, who was invited to make a keynote address to the audience on Day 2 of FICCI Frames 2014. Having shared with the audience his secrets to being a popular anchor on news television, Arnab Goswami of Times Now became a subject of debate in the next session titled ‘The Big Fight for Primetime’.


The panelists included Ashok Venkataramani, CEO, MCCS India; Dr Bhaskar Das, CEO, ZEE Media; Vishnu Som, Editor & Sr Anchor, NDTV and Jon Sopel, Senior Anchor, BBC Global News who moderated the session.


Sounding put off by the adulation that his friend and former colleague had received at an earlier session, Vishnu Som was critical as he said that what sells in news journalism today is an element of sensationalisation or entertainment. “The job of any news journalist is to provide news, not infotainment or entertainment. I find Arnab’s Goswami’s style of reporting a bit more dramatic or aggressive if you may call it. Personally, what matters for me is providing content that is high on quality. In that sense, the old style of journalism is much better and remains desirable even today.”


Bhaskar Das highlighted how it was essential to have content that was centered around the interest levels of the viewers. Ultimately, he opined, if you manage to provide good content that will result in better viewership which will translate to better revenues for the channel at large. “It is essential that news broadcasters figure out what is the primetime for the viewer and work towards providing content accordingly.”


On a question on the high number of news channels in operation today, Ashok Venkataramani said that there were too many channels existing in the marketplace which was not feasible. “There are too many news channels operating today and beyond the top 3 players, others will continue to face survival challenges. That is possible by having a sound business model with renewed focus on content.” Mr Venkatramani went on to add that the best way to see that people do not chase TRPs is to stop giving them TRPs. He asserted that it was important to build brands that stayed loyal to their core objective and accordingly, give them enough space to grow.


Taking a hard jibe on the regulators, Vishnu Som was quite vocal when he said that one of biggest problems arising out of the ongoing primetime battle is due to a flawed measurement system. “I find the ratings system to be highly flawed as it is based on limited number of meters installed at homes. In fact, an internal study undertaken by us show NDTV as the clear No 1 in primetime but that is not the case with the current measurement system.” Adding further Som said that news channels today were relying only on advertisers for making money and therefore when the numbers were not right it was causing a dent on the revenue making model for channels.


Pointing again to antics followed on rival channel Times Now, Som said that the primetime in India is majorly between 7-11pm and people have realised that all it takes to get numbers is get in people to talk. “Talking is a cheap exercise as there are no costs involved in getting panelists to speak on air for free, but it results in certain channels getting undue favour from advertisers while those offering quality content don’t get the desired returns. All this needs to change.”


Bhaskar Das opined that the challenge for news channels will be to get the youth hooked on to the content especially since many new platforms were evolving that were offering similar content. But the good thing is that digital is still evolving as a medium and there is still about 3-5 years for television to make changes if it had to stay relevant in the future as well, he remarked.


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