Absence of data not good for industry in the long run: Avinash Pandey
Avinash Pandey, the CEO of ABP Network, was in conversation with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now
Despite no weekly viewership data for individual news channels coming since mid-October 2020 after allegations of manipulation of television rating points (TRP’s ) by certain news channels, the percentage of viewers watching the news from the entire universe doubled during the lockdown.
According to Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network, no rating is better than bad rating. While speaking to Kailashnath Adhikari, MD Governance Now, during the live webcast of the Visionary Talk series held by the public policy and governance analysis platform, Pandey said that if the rating system is compromised and does not reflect ground picture then no rating is better than a rating which is questionable. “No rating is better than a bad rating. More or less shouting matches on different TV channels has almost ended and channels are covering PM speeches,” he said.
However, he added that not having data for the long run is not good for the industry and said industry leaders must ensure that data that comes in is robust and sound and data delivered to news broadcasters is free of error and demands of news broadcasters are met.
“If that happens, news broadcasters will go back to ratings and everyone will be happy. Right now, it looks like good for content and good for advertiser.”
Pandey said that the business of news is to inform, educate and entertain. But here the last one gets precedence over two others. That is the problem. "Despite the fact that India’s biggest reform in the last two years has been the education sector reforms, no TV channel has debated on it or has any discussions held on news channels. There has been no news around education reforms’’ he said.
He added that despite this, today news is focused on what it should be on and its coverage is much better.
The reason for this, he said, is BARC data which suggests that whenever you run a program that is mindless sensation, the ratings start going up because inherently BARC system seems to have been designed to measure entertainment, which it does very well. But it is not good enough to measure serious content like news.
The present model of broadcast news he said is extremely flawed as it is only dependent on advertising. It is high on the risk side and heavily dependent on advertising for revenue. Pandey said that sooner or later, news broadcasters should move to a pay model which will eliminate inefficiencies in the system.
"They should create content that people want to subscribe to, make an appointment and watch. That will give revenue measure and people will pay for it. Right now, it is free to air and dependent on rating," he said.
“And when your entire revenue is dependent on advertising, editors are tempted to cover those stories that are slightly on the edge of entertainment or sensational and this has brought down the overall quality of Indian television news over a period of time. However, the quality of news has not gone down entirely. Providing news in an interesting manner is an important ingredient for a news channel to be successful” said Pandey.
He added that despite these compulsions all news editors have always believed that even when some part of the news is done for ratings, most news has delivered groundbreaking content. "No other channel in the world can compare with India which is diverse and different where something is happening every day,” he signed off.
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