It’s still a few days for the New Year, but this being the season for yearenders and given my personal love for lists, here’s my take on the top highs and lows of the year. It’s by no means exhaustive and I’m sure there are several more downers or things to celebrate about, but, heck, this is my list. If you have another, please post it in the comments board below or write in.
Meanwhile, read on. First the lows and end on a happier note with the highs.
Low #10. Regulation rumblings: It started with only the newswallahs getting scared of an indifferent stand-in Information and Broadcasting Minister of State, but by the end of the year, there was a fair bit of noise against the GECs too. ‘Balika Vadhu’, ‘Sach Ka Saamna’ and assorted others faced the heat from the Government and outside.
Low #9. The Great Media Depression: The slowdown plagued the entire media through the year. From across-the-board salary cuts to large scale lay-offs and closure of operations, the Indian mediaperson has never had it so bad.
Low #8. Exit the Mukerjeas: Once the hottest names in Indian media, Peter Mukerjea sold his news channel to NaiDunia’s Vinay Chhajlani and former BusinessWorld Editor Jehangir Pocha in early January and exited the main company (with wifey Indrani) a few months later.
Low #7. Leaky Abby: If it was a Class 10 exam paper or result leak, the school board wouldn’t have been spared, but this is the Advertising Club Bombay and it’s GoaFest, and leaks are a part of life. Even if it’s for the second consecutive year to the same pink paper.
Low #6: NDTV Blues: India’s most admired news television company had a troubled year thanks to its forays in the entertainment and lifestyle space. Although ‘Rakhi Ka Swayamvar’ was a blockbuster for NDTV Imagine, but the affable Prannoy Roy and had no option but to sell most of his stake to Turner and Scripps, respectively.
Low#5: Sloppy sops from DAVP: With an eye on the elections, the Government gave in to the demands from biggies of the newspaper world for higher rates for advertising. While they crib about the slowdown, no one has effected a realistic hike in cover price.
Low #4: Real damp squib: It launched with much promise. The Alva brothers are badshahs of reality TV, Turner is a global power and Sunil Lulla is the man with the midas touch. However, the channel bombed despite the combo. Lulla has quit, Turner has bought NDTV Imagine and the channel survives on a diet of reruns.
Low #3: Paid News UnLtd: Cynics may say that it’s been in existence for a while, but with politicians, corporates and wannabes patronising the prostitution of editorial content, no one’s really complaining. Sad.
Low #2: Still no news on radio: Private television channels and print players can be trusted, but our FM radio players can’t be. Sounds strange? Yes, but this is India and successive governments and an alert media have done precious little to allow for independently gathered news on private FM stations.
Low #1: Media companies hate criticism: If some souls in media companies had their way, the column you read (and a few others) wouldn’t have been in existence. Criticism is okay when they subject others to it, but not when they are at the receiving end. Sigh.
And now for the highs.
High #10: India scores yet again at Cannes, elsewhere: The showing at the awards may not have been as high as last year, but the Indian flag’s flying high at all advertising awards shows.
High #9: Down, but not out: The slowdown may have forced some players out of business, but those with robust business models are beginning to bounce back.
High #8: United we stand: There may be arch rivals in the marketplace, but when pushed to the wall, on the regulation issue news as well as general entertainment channels have shown tremendous unity.
High #7: Magazines aren’t dead: ‘Open’, ‘Forbes’, ‘Entrepreneur’, ‘Sports Illustrated’, ‘Careers 360’… some of the titles launched this year despite global trends that print magazines aren’t doing well.
High #6: Doordarshan, 50, wakes up: No one denies the super reach of public broadcaster Doordarshan, but it needed a 50th birthday and a Commonwealth Games to rediscover its rich past and wake up to the challenges of the private players.
High #5: Test case for convergence as ET Now launches: ET Now launched with much fanfare, but more than the channel, for me the occasion to celebrate was the attempt to bring about a convergence in the newsroom.
High #4: Social Media rules: Whether it was the elections or the launch of a new product, social media – Facebook and Orkut – and the microblogging platform Twitter ruled. Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor got into trouble thanks to some off-the-cuff tweets, but not before turning the unofficial ambassador for social media in the country.
High #3: A new numero uno: The 26/11 coverage and much rah-rahing about Pakistan and China ensured Times Now is the consistent #1 news channel in English, but with GECs, it’s been Colors. The gap may have narrowed last week, but there’s no stopping the Viacom 18 channel.
High #2: IRS, NRS merge: “What would it take to bring the MRUC and the NRSC together? The United Nations?” tweeted Lynn de Souza on May 28. Within months, a merger was announced and the fraternity is ensuring that the marriage works.
High #1: Ambika Soni – the fine minister: The industry couldn’t have asked for a better Information and Broadcasting Minister. She has successfully warded of all the threats that news and entertainment channels could’ve faced. That she has a hotline to the Sonia Gandhi family of course helps.
(Disagree with my list of highs and lows or want to add on to them? Post your comments below or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, the views expressed above are personal.)