“Regional & national should co-exist, not compete”
Sudhir Chaudhary of Zee News, Manish Jha of Maurya TV & Chetan Sharma on the national vs. regional channels debate
Speaking on the topic ‘Big fish eating small fish or vice versa’, Sudhir Chaudhary, Editor and Business Head, Zee News shared that there have been big fish and small fish, but there’s a confusion between the roles of national and regional channels. “Every channel is showing the same content and it’s difficult to differentiate except for the logo, anchors and packaging.”
“We have 18 national English channels and 29 Hindi news channels – a total of 47 news channels and in HSM there are more than 116 channels operating there,” said Manish Jha, Head – Business Development and Distribution, Mauraya TV. There has been a proliferation of channels but viewership and consumption has remained the same. If any new channel comes up, it eats into the pie and nothing new is created. As far as the ad revenue goes, there is limited food but a large number of fishes, he further explained.
Regional channels have increased phenomenonally in many markets such as UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and local content is important. Observing that people are saying all news channels are the same, he said that we need to do socially relevant programmes such as Satyamev Jayate, which will finally connect the channel to the viewer.
Big fishes and small fishes can learn to co-exist and be mutually beneficial to each other.
In mass media you have to learn from happenings surrounding you, advised Chaudhury. “I’m a political reporter and have learnt a lot from politics,” he said.
National channels can never compete with regional channels and being national, they have limitations as they cannot cover all parts of the country. There has to be a differentiator between them like political parties. When you vote for Lok Sabha or local cabinet, the process is different; there should be that kind of difference in a national channel’s newsroom and a regional channel’s newsroom.
“I believe regional and national channels should co-exist and not compete. You have to pool in resources, news gathering mechanisms, sales teams and survive. Personally, I feel regional is the future,” he added.
Chetan Sharma, Senior Business Journalist and moderator of the session shared that many states such as Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, etc. conduct their own business programmes to solicit business. It’s not about co-existing but supplementing each other, he felt.
Annurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group shared his views on the issue of ad spends. He said that advertising spends for national channels is approximately Rs 1800 crore whereas for regional channels it is about Rs 450 crore. “The Indian language news ad spends have a long way to go,” he added.
Comparatively, ad spends in Indian language newspapers have gone up and their markets have grown. If they establish themselves, they stand to win. But Batra had a word of caution; he warned that most regional channels are being run for a political agenda.
Chaudhury also added here that most politicians, who have ambitions, are always looking for investing in a channel as they get both, coverage and protection.
Big channels eying regional space
Looking at the growth of Tier II and Tier III towns, the question whether ‘Bharat’ is performing better than ‘India’ was raised. Big channels are eying the regional space, but it’s not enough to just put up an office. It’s not that a regional channel can be run with less money, people would like to see the same quality as you see on national channels, noted Jha.Chaudhury said that if regional channels remain islands, it’s a problem. He further explained that if corporate houses and business houses enter the arena, if systems are filtered, professional teams and editors are in place, then there’s no problem. The problem starts when someone starts dictating and the newsroom gets influenced.
Talking about sensationalising news for TRPs, Chaudhary emphasised that news channels should ‘engage’ and not ‘entertain’. “News anchors should not be treated as entertainers,” he concluded.
Sudhir Chaudhury, Manish Jha, Chetan Sharma, Annurag Batra were speakers at exchange4media-organised NewsNext on August 31, 2012. It was presented by Dish TV and powered by Television Street Maps.
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