Indian News Diaries: In 2022-23, Expect The Unexpected

24 Sep,2021

 

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Shailesh KapoorOver the last two months, there’s been considerable action on the television news front. We saw two high-profile and well-promoted channel launches, which itself is a rarity over the last few years. Times Now Navbharat launched early August, and earlier this month, the India Today group launched Good News Today, replacing Aaj Tak Tez. Like most years in India, 2022 is a big elections year too, with the Uttar Pradesh elections likely to be held in the first quarter itself, which serves as more than a sound reason to launch (or relaunch) Hindi news channels ahead of the festive season in 2021.

 

Over the last few months, the state of our news television has been stagnant, to use a mild word. Known issues of credibility deficit and growing concerns around fake news have not been addressed actively, and a culture of ‘armchair journalism’, where most senior editors hardly ever step out of their studios at all, is only being strengthened with time.

 

The other part of the news television story that has remained unchanged is the absence of news channel ratings. There’s very little we have heard on that front, except that the news broadcasters fraternity, if it can be called that, is lobbying to get the ratings back. But in a genre that’s highly political by its very nature, this will not be an easy ask.

 

Despite no news ratings for a year now, there’s very little evidence that adspends on news television have been impacted. But that’s more to do with the size of the news genre. If this had happened to a genre like infotainment or music, it may have died an instant death. But news television has enough going for it, especially because it is popularly believed to deliver a core audience that’s complementary in gender to the core GEC audience.

 

Many had expected digital news to take over the news ecosystem in India this decade, but that’s not been happening at a scale that was predicted a few years ago. There has been some ground-breaking work on digital news over the last two years, a lot more than what some top TV channels have to show. But the business model remains challenging, and getting Indian audience to pay for news, of all the things, is going to be a long-drawn educational process. In a vast and populous country like ours, even convincing the big metros that quality news does not come free can take several years.

 

There are so many intricacies to the Indian news ecosystem that the next year or two can be highly exciting, even unpredictable. Will print be able to sail past the headwinds it has faced during the pandemic? Will television news find the respect that it lacks, even when it has the numbers? Will digital news find a business model that is realistic and sustainable?

 

To borrow a popular slogan, expect the unexpected.

 

 

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