I often feel sorry for the news channelwallahs. Running one can be a pretty thankless job. There’s the Government to contend with… a Ministry whose worldview of what information and broadcasting should be must be best described as warped. Then, there are the compulsions of the business. High carriage fees to ensure that you can be seen by people across the land; staff costs, which have only been going north; retention of key talent, which is a huge pain; newsgathering costs that keep going up, etc., etc., etc.
But the biggest problem is the pressure to perform. Perform for the stakeholders, the advertisers and your own people. And this performance depends largely on how each channel measures in the mid-week ratings sweepstakes.
Every Thursday (or Wednesday), news channel CEOs and editors eagerly await the Television Audience Measurement (TAM) findings as they have a bearing on how channels are perceived by advertisers.
I am aware that there are some who do not believe in the weekly score sheet, but that’s the currency that the industry follows. And one can’t help accepting them.
While distribution matters, assuming that’s taken care of, what’s most critical is content. And the super thing about the electronic and online media is that unlike what new entrants find is the problem with the morning newspaper readership, it’s easy to change habits. So, if an NDTV was your favourite channel once upon a time, you could switch to CNN-IBN for a year and don’t think it’s sacrilege to move on to Times Now.
Regrettably, one can’t help viewing the coverage of Mumbai terror attacks with all of this in mind. So, am I saying that channels raised the pitch for the shock value and higher ratings? Not really, but the need to fare better is uppermost in the news manager’s mind.
Chill, this isn’t going to be a regular feature, but just a sometimes list, which will carry my personal ranking of who’s hot and who’s not. For starters, my focus is on who scored (and who didn’t and hence, bored) in the coverage of the Mumbai mayhem.
Best Channels – English: Times Now, CNN-IBN
Had Times Now bragged a shade lesser and had CNN-IBN been a little more aggressive in its approach, they wouldn’t have had to share honours.
Best Channels – Hindi: India TV, Aaj Tak
Many of my friends don’t like what they see here, but their views don’t quite matter. The public loves them. Even if it’s often over how a billi has hit a kutta… whatever!
Huge Disappointment – English: NDTV 24x7, Hindi – Zee News
The most trusted channel has some of the best experienced television journos, but the breakaway boys are better. Note: NDTV 24x7 topped ratings, but that’s more because it’s a channel the masses trust more than the others. Zee News may have made a huge announcement of airing only ‘hard news’, but sadly it squandered the biggest news opportunity of the yea.
Best Newspaper Coverage (Mumbai editions only): DNA
Excellent package across the paper, beat Times to it!
Most Disappointing Newspaper Coverage (Mumbai editions only): Hindustan Times
It got its act together on the Sunday after the blasts though, and thereafter
Best Coverage by a non-Mumbai newspaper: Mail Today
Super use of pictures and graphics and the tabloid format
Best Website: IBNlive.com, Runner-up: Rediff.com
They’ve been at it for a bit, so very easy to pick them
Best Newsperson: Arnab Goswami, Most Disappointing Newsperson: Sreenivasan Jain
Arnab had the right guests and asked the right questions, as always. Jain obviously has loads of experience, but he doesn’t give the viewer the confidence that he’s on top of things. And what was that asking topcop A N Roy if he had a ‘lump in the while talking of slain ATS chief Hemant Karkare.
Best Guest on Show: Suhel Seth, Runner-up: Shobhaa De
Seth and Mahesh Bhatt can speak on any thing under the sun – from nuclear science to politics to prostitution to the efficacy of naphthalene balls in life… but Seth’s straightspeak on Times Now was par excellence. Madame De was good and managed to get her point across loud and clear.
Most Disappointing TV Personality of the Week: Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh
A friend says it’s incorrect for me to compare our PM with an Obama. But even if MS were to look half as good as, say, a George Bush, it would’ve been ok. That address to the nation on telly could well lose the Congress an election. Public perception: our Prime Minister just doesn’t have it!
(Note, the views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent those of the exchange4media Group where I am Group Chief Editor, exchange4media.com and impact. Feel strongly about what is written here or don’t agree with my Top 10, mail me at email@example.com.)
Mixed Media: Don’t damn the news channels for the terror coverage