The Indian broadcast industry has developed by leaps and bounds through technology, craft and practices over the last few years, there are many who believe that journalism has regressed and that the social charter is not being lived up to.
When it comes to news credibility, the general feeling is that business aspect takes precedence over maintaining the integrity of news. As all news broadcasters agree that at the end, it’s the advertising revenue which earns channels the money they require to function. They also feel that it is absolutely essential to give the channel’s marketers and distributors a certain vision of the channel which can be sold.
But the onus of maintaining the integrity of news remains with the journalists, as Vishnu Som, Editor, Special Projects and Documentaries, NDTV noted, “At the end of the day, it’s the editor’s and journalist’s responsibility to ensure that content which goes on air is credible and that it serves some of social purpose and works for the audiences as well. News has to be interesting and important.”
The quality of talent available today was under the scanner. Veteran journalist Satish Jaicob felt that the quality of young journalists entering the news industry today is not what it was 15 years ago. He further said that youngsters today are misused by many channels, besides they are not getting decent salaries.
Throwing light on the business of news, Vivek Law, Editor, Bloomberg TV, pointed out that the dynamics have changed and channels today are driven by TRPs. In this age of live reportage, the stakes involved are huge as whatever information comes out has a direct impact on the stock market. Thus, the role of journalists is larger than before. Law, too, stressed that at the end of the day, the currency is “integrity”.
He further said that he believed in a future where the business model will move to a system where consumers are paying. “A lot of news channels will look at empty barrels out there and then people will start valuing the credibility of news. You can’t be trading credibility if you are a journalist.”
“Jo bikta hai, woh dikhta hai (What sells is what you see),” remarked Mukesh Kumar, Channel Head and Editor, News Express. According to him, news broadcasters are trying to show only what sells and today news is not judged for its value. “We have to make news valuable by providing entertainment and sensation so that it is viewed by more and more people. This formula has been created by the market dynamics,” he pointed out.
To sell, channels are creating news that reaches out to more viewers, which boost the TRPs, and which in turn bring in the revenues. Breaking news is generated to engage the viewers.
But there is a flip side to it. India has more news channels than are viewed, Kumar said, adding that it the news is not trustworthy then in the long run it will lose the faith of the viewers and advertisers alike. If the advertisers move out, then the channel’s revenue will dry out. “Hence, it is only news credibility that can work for channels in the long run,” he affirmed.
BV Rao, Editor, Governance Now, pointed out, “Credibility was not lost overnight, nor is it lost through scams and scandals. Credibility is built by what we do everyday – right and wrong. This credibility process is preceded by two important things, which are quality and leadership. There is an amazing drop in the quality today.”
Like NDTV’s Som, Rao too said that there is a huge difference in the salaries of seniors and juniors. “The salaries of the top people in the management will vacuum clean the budget,” he remarked. According to Rao, “The problem of leadership is that what we have today are only news shows instead of the news channel as a whole. Take away the centre stage show from the news channels and what we have are only boxes.”
The king of the industry is meant to be the journalist and not the anchor, but it is the other way around. If the business model changes, then we will have journalists at the helm again.
Satish Jaicob, Vivek Law, Mukesh Kumar, Vishnu Som and BV Rao were speakers at the exchange4media-organised NewsNext on August 31, 2012. It was presented by Dish TV and powered by Television Street Maps.