If there is one crisis that is facing the Hindi news industry, it is this. Much as the industry tries to paint a picture of the viewer as a willing consumer of pulp, the ground is slipping under its feet. It is clear that the average viewer has had enough of nonsense and is turning off. And yet, I have never heard any CEO or editor talk about this looming danger at any industry meet or interview, observes BV Rao.
BV Rao laments the media’s inability or unwillingness to look within and course correct in some cases. While freedom of the press is important in any democracy, this freedom comes with a lot of responsibilities and requires the media to be inward-looking and self-policing. This, however, was overlooked at times either due to lazy and shortcut journalism or to make money by cheating the reader and subverting democracy itself.
Hundreds of great stories have died a premature death in our country because media rivalry prevents one from picking up and following the other’s scoops. BV Rao gives the recent example of how different papers covered Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s statement on the Kyoto Pact, to emphasise this point.
In 1987, The Times of India set in motion a process of deconstructing the Indian newspaper as we knew it up until then. It shelved the prevailing trend of periodic cover price increases with invitation pricing and style took precedence over substance. Twenty-two years later comes Crest, which is a complete departure from everything that The Times of India has stood for in the last two decades. BV Rao analyses the latest offering from The Times of India.
Not long ago, NDTV Imagine helped Rakhi Sawant find a suitable boy. Imagine has now decided that while Rakhi’s marriage can wait, she needs urgent training in minding babies and has devised the show ‘Pati, Patni aur Woh’. But hearing the distressed baby’s cries, one wonders where the activists crying hoarse over ‘Balika Vadhu’ and ‘Sach Ka Saamna’ are, asks BV Rao.
If the cost of telling blatant lies is guaranteed and instant industry amnesia, you can bet your life that we have not seen the last lie on television. Yes, television channels self-regulate. They “regulate” their urge to report an offending competitor for its misdemeanors, because they expect the latter to look the other way when they are themselves in the box, says BV Rao.
News channel editors are like horses. While horses are forced to wear blinkers, news channel editors wear them voluntarily. Horses are made to wear these blinkers so that they see only the road ahead and stay on course. We call that focus. Blinkers are meant to keep the horse on course, not to blind it. However, the editors’ preoccupation with the ‘big story’ often blinds them to the other stories of the day, says BV Rao.
In the 30 hours between the disappearance of Rajashekhara Reddy’s chopper and the declaration of his death, information was sparse and nobody knew what was happening. But 24x7 news demands that information or no information, you have to keep the talk-shop going. But when a channel takes recourse to exaggeration and outright lies to create an illusion of victory over its rivals, you have to call the bluff, says BV Rao.
TRP is a weekly game. So most channels take the easy route to success and TAM takes the brunt of the blame. Instead of hoping that all the advertisers will come together one day and force the channels to clean up content, how about trying this easier way out: why can’t all the channels come together and banish the trash, asks BV Rao.
News channels hunt and hide in a pack. When they are on to something, they are on to it like there’s no tomorrow, and when they run from something, they run like their tails are on fire. Sting operations are a case in point. BV Rao explains why he misses sting and how overzealous channels have all but killed TV’s most potent weapon.
Much like any average person in any average job, the TV journo, too, has made his peace. He gets by the tough life of the TV newsroom by throwing the protective ring of philosophy around himself. Thus, the television newsroom is a very philosophical place. It is littered with life’s eternal truths, says BV Rao.
In this second part of his two-part series veteran journalist BV Rao continues with his analysis of what ails print media today. Just like underwear, print will survive. But the waist that wears the underwear will shrink dramatically, so print will have to recast and resize, he concludes.
With recession putting the skids on print media’s brilliant bull run and the digital-age news consumer becoming more of an immediate reality rather than a distant mirage, an old question returns to haunt the industry: Is it over for us? It’s been discussed at various industry seminars just this month. BV Rao adds his two bits in this two-part series.
BV Rao responds to (in his own way) Janata Dal (United) President Sharad Yadav venting his ire against ‘Balika Vadhu’ in Parliament recently. In an open letter, he points out that there is a whole world that exists beyond the walls of Doordarshan that is not some sanitised fantasy land. So, is the hoo-haa really called for?