Executive co-chairman of NDTV Prannoy Roy recently received the Red Ink Award for ‘lifetime achievement’. Prannoy Roy on why media houses should refrain from following the 'Tabloid Culture'
In his acceptance speech, Roy expressed his opinion on certain issues plaguing the media industry including tabloidization of news.
Roy said among leading Hindi News channels, almost 25% of the TRPs comes from Astrology "News", and another 25% from saas-bahu serial news, and some highly graphic crime news. I have heard a woman anchor on one Hindi channel saying, "break ke baad aapko ek Rape dikhayengey" (after the break, we'll show you a rape").
He further elaborated, “Tabloidization is the death of good journalism. But I don't blame our anchors or journalists for this tsunami of tabloid news. I also strongly disagree with the widely held hypothesis that blames the Indian viewer - Indians love tabloid sensationalism ... Indians have base, tabloid tastes. So if our anchors are not to blame, and it's not about viewer preferences - why is India becoming "no country for honest journalism?”
“Many feel that the advertising fraternity must carry part of the blame. The advertising pie is distributed based entirely on numbers - many in the advertising fraternity tell me that our media buyers are essentially eyeball-chasers (the media equivalent of ambulance-chasers),” said Roy.
While our advertisers and media buyers are as skilled as those in the West in their media modeling skills, for some reason they have not created methods that enable them to evaluate news on factors others than just numbers of eyeballs.
This is not the case in developed media markets. The circulation of the London Times is 400,000 - while the Sun has 5 times that at 2 million - and we all know that Fox News has 3 times the viewership of CNN. Yet the advertising rate for The Times is much higher than for the Sun, and the advertising rate for CNN is much higher than for Fox News.
Do the eyeballs justify that? Of course not. But the advertisers and the media buyers place a premium on the 'quality' of The Times journalism and its credibility.
The higher ad rate for credible journalism, and lower rates for tabloid news, has meant that both ends of the news media spectrum have survived and prospered.
Unless we model quality and credibility into our advertising rates, and not go just by the eyeball count, we shall go headlong into tabloidization - with no place for news that is at the serious end of the spectrum.
Think about it - do advertisers in India really want their product to come immediately after "break ke baad aapko ek rape dikhayenge"?
The day advertisers in India distinguish between tabloid news and serious news like it's done all over the world, India will see the growth of better quality media and an end to the mushrooming of eyeball-chasing tabloid TV. Don't blame the viewer, let's look inwards and do our research, urged Roy.