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Higher TRPS versus meaningful content: Is TV journalism losing a sense of balance?

01-August-2006
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Higher TRPS versus meaningful content: Is TV journalism losing a sense of balance?

It was a judicious mix of old school journalism and new media savviness that came forth at the editorial workshop held by exchange4media on July 31, 2006. Media stalwarts like Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, CNN-IBN, Tehelka’s Tarun Tejpal, Vinod Mehta, Editor-in-Chief, Outlook, and Anuradha Sengupta, who has been the force behind the show Storyboard on CNBC, gave their valuable inputs at the workshop.

Sardesai drew a comparative picture of where TV news channels were in 1994-95, a period when he had just begun to report for NDTV, vis-à-vis today’s scenario, when there are over 30 players in the field.

“Though there is a multiplicity of channels, the question to ask ourselves is has this led to the improvement in news being delivered. One of the major concerns today for a 24-hour news channel is crisis of content,” he pointed out.

He also wondered whether in the race to get higher TRPs channels were losing a sense of balance – where 30 minutes special shows were done on inane issues, but there was a general failure to generate any meaningful content on issues like drought or flood or farmers’ suicide.

Sardesai continued, “Television today has to look beyond and integrate with other mediums – be it blogs or websites.”

Tejpal, on the other hand, took the platform to explain the perils of pursuing fearless journalism. The case in point being Tehelka.com, which had to be cut down to a five-member team, including Tejpal himself, from a staff strength of 125. He explained how his obsession for the survival of Tehelka was the silver lining, which he had envisioned and had managed to achieve that today.

He further said, “The challenge for many of us today is to retain superior editorial commodity while at the same time make the product commercially viable. But the balance lies in maintaining editorial integrity.”

The next speaker was Vinod Mehta, who talked about how one could strive towards attaining editorial excellence. He said, “This can be achieved by paying attention to details and being credible with getting the basics right. Besides, the journalists should aim at keeping whatever they write simple and straightforward with brevity being the key word. And lastly, to learn good journalism is to read good journalism and most often read it more than once.”

Anuradha Sengupta, who is the brain behind Storyboard on CNBC, now in its sixth year, presented her viewpoints on how one could achieve excellence in journalism in a niche segment. She said, “It’s important to not feel complacent in what one is doing and a check to this is possible with presence of competition, which keeps you alert.”

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