Bengalis are known for their penchant for news and views. The channels understand this well, which has not only prompted the general entertainment channels to focus more on news-based programmes, but also saw the launch of two new dedicated news channels –Tara Newz in February and STAR Ananda in June, 2005. This indicates that a niche has been created in this segment.
Though news as such is a rigid subject, channels – existing ones as well as the newer players – have been trying to present news in an attractive package, both in terms of content and production. According to Suman Chattopadhyay, Executive Producer of STAR Ananda, “Though our medium of communication is Bengali, we are a national channel. ‘Whatever is possible in English is also possible in Bengali’ has been our motto.” STAR Ananda strives to give local news in a national flavour.
The recent municipal elections in West Bengal saw channels come up with innovative programmes centering around this. Political leaders were brought closer to the public in various interactive, and some quite bold, sessions. Thanks to the healthy competition that has been sparked off, the general public got more qualitative and probing insight to elections.
Interestingly, general entertainment channels are still faring better in terms of both channel share and Television Viewership Ratings (TVR). The recent elections may have caused some movements in the graphs, but will it be possible to sustain this?
ETV Bangla has clearly emerged as the market leader – both in terms of channel share and TVR (as per data obtained from TAM for the period June 26 to July 2, 2005 for entire West Bengal, including Kolkata/CS 15+), followed by Aakaash Bangla. TV serials could have played a major role in this.
If we take a day-part of 9 pm-9.30 pm, when both the local dedicated news channels are airing news bulletins, we see that the ratings of mass channels are higher simply because of the fact that viewers are still loyal to these channels showing serials and have not moved away.
Crime based programmes have become popular and these channels have cashed in on this ETV (B) has Crime File from 8.30 pm-9 pm, while Akaash Bangla airs yet another crime based programme, Police File. Zee Bangla has a women oriented programme Oder Bolte Dao.
ETV Bangla viewers continue with their favourite channel from 8.30 pm onwards to watch the 9 pm news, whereas Akaash has a follower for Shom Theke Shoni (a soap telecast from Monday to Saturday), and Zee pulls in viewers with Hao Moa Khau, a comedy serial. They are not yet ready to vacate their favourite serial time.
It is interesting to observe that district news, too, have become a big crowd puller. While ETV Bangla, which airs Amar Bangla (the only detailed district news programme), has managed to get the maximum channel share of 59.6 per cent in the time slot of 7 pm-7.30 pm, DD7, STAR Ananda and Tara Newz are airing general news bulletins.
Again, if we look at the time slot of 10 pm-10.30 pm, ETV Bangla with its serial Banni Shikha and Akaash Bangla with its investigative programme Khoj Khabor are faring better than the news based channels.
Although it must be mentioned that STAR Ananda – which is the direct beneficiary of the ABP and STAR News Centre (Media Content & Communications Services India Pvt Ltd) – has left Tara Newz, the only other dedicated news channel till now, far behind. Tara Bangla might have lost its wholesomeness when it got fragmented into Tara Newz and Tara Muzik.
According to Indrani Sen , Head of Mindshare, Kolkata, “People have accepted dedicated news channels and interest will definitely grow.” Thus, it has to be watched and followed whether dedicated news channels can fare better than mass channels in the future, or would the existing dedicated news channels be able to substitute strictly news programmes with the viewer’s staple dose of popular entertainment.