The Façade of Being #1

25 Mar,2022

 

 

 

 

Shailesh KapoorBy Shailesh Kapoor

 

Last week, news channel ratings were released after a long hiatus. What followed was bizarre, to say the least. Within a few hours, multiple channels had staked their claim for the no. 1 position. Between Hindi and English news genres itself, I read mailers and trade stories from at least seven channels claiming to be #1.

 

The communication was not restricted to the trade. Channels went on air with their claims. You may have already seen Arnab Goswami’s self-congratulatory video from the day, in which he takes digs at competition while he finishes his 10,000 steps for the day, addressing Living Media as “Tak waalon” repeatedly.

 

That video is funny at one level, but sad at another. The return of news ratings should have been an industry moment. A positive step towards better times ahead, where advertisers can make more informed choices. Instead, it was reduced to a game of one-upmanship. Other channels were not as shrill as Goswami. But the ideas were similar, nonetheless.

 

This is all perception play, of course. None of the channels were technically “lying”. They were just looking at TG cuts that suited them. You can play with gender, age, NCCS and markets, and there are at least 120+ possible ‘reasonable’ combinations to choose from. In English News, where the reach is limited, it is quite possible that almost every channel will find itself being ranked #1 in at least one of these combinations.

 

I often wonder how these trade campaigns make any sense. Surely, the advertisers know better by now. They have access to the same data. The senior planners are seasoned enough to see through this trickery of numbers. And yet, the mailers, the stories and the on-air coverage only gets more visible each year. It’s perhaps a case of channels doing this just to build the morale of the editorial and the sales teams. It’s that Arnab-type brouhaha that they may be going for, inside their respective offices, even when the cameras are not recording.

 

This time, so many trade publications carried press releases on news ratings as they were. In an emailer from one of the websites, there were three stories, next to each other, from three different channels, all claiming to be #1. I have a theory that if you send some incomprehensible gobbledygook in the form of a press release, some of our trade websites will still carry it.

 

The onus, in this case, should lie with BARC India. I find their advisories on usage of ratings data for sales and marketing to be loose and non-committal. BARC India could, and perhaps rightly, argue that which TG a channel selects is not their business. But in a genre that has come out of a ratings blackout that went on for a year and a half, BARC India can surely play a more active role in maintaining sanity.

 

Because, by now, we should know that our news channels couldn’t care less about sanity.

 

Shailesh Kapoor is Founder and CEO, Ormax Media. He writes on MxMIndia every Friday. His views here are personal

 

Editor’s Note: As a policy, MxMIndia has not published any news around the rankings of any news channels since the day of release on March 17, 2022. We will wait for data release for at least four weeks before doing that. However, we do carry advertising mailers and banner ads of news channels. While we appreciate that as a responsible media platform, we are liable for ALL content we serve, all entities advertising with us are governed by the laws of the land and the advertising is subject to scrutiny by the Advertising Standards Council of India and the respective trade bodies. In the specific case of television ratings, the industry-owned body BARC also has a clear policy on how the data can be used in promotional communication.

 

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