Since a few years back, news channels, especially Hindi news channels, have been under constant criticism and have been talked about regarding their content being shrill and loud. Also, it was believed that every news is breaking news on a Hindi news channel. But for the last two years, editors of news channels have been consciously taking steps to improve that. One such name is Shazi Zaman, Editor, MCCS, where he looks after Star Ananda and Star Jalsha and one of the leading Hindi news channels – Star News. In an exclusive conversation with exchange4media, Zaman talks about how he views content, its nuances and the age old debate about TRPs.
Credible content critical
Zaman believes that content rules and is the most important component of news. He says, “We take immense pride in our credible content. As an editor, it is my duty and responsibility to offer credible content. In terms of content and in terms of presentation, we think we are far ahead of anybody else and that is a matter of pride. When you see others following you, you further strengthen your belief that we are offering something that people like to follow. We take great pride in our thought leadership.”
He further adds, “As a channel, we have given more formats to the industry than anybody else - whether it is 24-ghante-24-reporter format, the rapid fire format or whether it is a ‘Saas bahu saazish’, which is a sub-genre in itself. We take pride in doing programming that taps into people’s desire to know and into people’s insecurities. For example, ‘Sansani’; I don’t call it a crime show, I call it a security show. We could see that the Hindi speaking audience has the security issue on their mind, so that programme caters to that need. So, whether it is the presentation or whether it is the content, we have great faith in experimentation and people love our experiments they have accepted that and others have followed that.”
TRPs follow good content
When asked about how often discussions on TRPs take place in editorial meetings, Zaman says, “I think if you chase TRPs you never get it, you chase credible content and you get ratings and that is how it should be. Consciously we never discuss ratings, beyond a point one should not be chasing ratings on a micro basis, my experience shows that if you take care of the big picture and you chase good content ratings would follow definitely. But if you consciously, like a statistician, chase ratings very often they don’t come to you.”
Jan Ruchi (public interest) versus Jan Hit (Public welfare)
Zaman believes that each news channel has its own way of mixing Jan Hit and Jan Ruchi. Majority of the content on Star News is Jan hit and some bits are Jan Ruchi.
He points out, “I remember a time almost 10 years back when there was a huge debate in a particular newsroom that should there be a cinema story in the bulletin. It was almost blasphemous that there should be a cinema story in a news bulletin. Now, you have bulletins based on cinema. This has happened because of two reasons – firstly, the news industry has taken into account diverse interests of the people and reached out to them. Secondly, the news universe itself has expanded to include lot more people who are watching news channels. So, you need to take into account the large universe. If there is a substantial population which needs a particular kind of content whether it is based on soap, cinema, crime, business or politics, you can’t wish it away. You can’t subject people to a Victorian definition of news.”
Zaman thinks that there should not be any cutting and pasting of content on news channels. He opines, “My discomfort arises when people cut and paste reality shows on news channels. I am very comfortable if as a journalist I am reviewing content that is an intellectual activity, it is a journalistic activity, it is a credible activity, it is an acceptable activity – because then you are adding value to the information requirements of the people. Unfortunately, what has happened is people have found a shortcut of cutting and pasting exactly that which is not cerebral activity.”