Must constantly reinvent to stay relevant in the news business: Anurradha Prasad

In an interview with exchange4media, Anurradha Prasad, Chairperson and MD of BAG Network, spoke about a new dawn for broadcast news in India and the road ahead for players in order to stay relevant

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Jan 3, 2018 8:58 AM

The news broadcast space in India is witnessing a gradual transformation. One of the biggest drivers of this change is the ever increasing clout of digital news consumption which has forced traditional broadcasters to look for new ways to stay relevant.
Amidst this changing dynamics, broadcasters are recalibrating their approach to news starting with the once overtly melodramatic newsrooms taking a refreshed look at their editorial stand. The onus on credibility has hit a new high. The debate on curbing fake news is getting shrill and this too is helping broadcasters envisage a new future for news.
In an interview with exchange4media, Anurradha Prasad, Chairperson and MD of BAG Network, spoke about this new dawn of broadcast news in India and the road ahead for players to stay relevant. Excerpts:

It is being said that digital has emerged as a big challenge for TV news broadcasters over the years and has forced them into an existential crisis, is that true?
Just to give you a perspective, when TV started everyone used to talk the same about print. But it never happened. It may have lost the volume part but its impact still remains intact. The same thing is with TV. In fact TV news players have taken the digital wave in their stride and it’s no longer a matter of challenge but about adopting and embracing this transformation.  
Do you see increasing digital ad spends becoming a cause for worry for TV news broadcasters?
(Laughs) When the ads were moving from Print to TV, again everybody was talking the same thing. But print is still doing well in India. For the next 5 to 6 years I don’t see any major impact on our ad revenues. I think the equation will finally settle in a way that every platform will benefit from it. Also broadcasters are making attempts to stay relevant as digital entities, so the effect will not be drastic. I believe you have to constantly reinvent to stay relevant in the news business.

With ever changing technology and consumption patterns, how are traditional news players getting future ready to stay relevant?
Television is a dynamic medium. I think the news space has already transformed in a big way in the last 10 years as part of the process to stay relevant. For example, today’s news has greater focus on the public perspective than ever before. This transformation is also helping traditional players meet the current demands and stay relevant.

There is a big debate about speed and credibility of news. Many a times the credibility factor gets compromised while pursuing speed, how challenging is it to balance the two?
Speed definitely matters but finally credibility and speed must go together. You can’t afford to be discredited while looking for speed. When we broadcast anything, it is extremely important that the viewers should believe in it. The relationship between a news organisation and its viewers is that of faith and it is extremely important to keep the faith intact. Talking of credibility, the fact is that people don’t believe news on social media the way they used to. Today more than 30% of news on social media is considered as fake news. In India people still have faith in the credibility of traditional media houses and it is our responsibility to sustain and strengthen this faith by making credibility the central focus of our editorial policies.

Data & Analytics have started impacting editorial decisions in many organisations, is TV news going through this phase as well?
Analytics is important but it does not rule us. Moreover we are an ‘always on’ media and so analytics cannot play that critical role for us editorially, barring a few stories. When news is happening there is no analytics, it’s about that very moment. I think the role of data and analytics is more defined for print and digital first mediums as compared to traditional TV news broadcasters.

Many believe that the news space has become politically influenced and it is difficult to take a neutral stand, do you agree?
Well, as a human being everyone has his or her political views and they are rightfully entitled to it. However, at times if certain bias gets shown, I think it is not deliberate. At the same time, when you are reporting hardcore news there is no time to manoeuvre it in any manner. So there is no question of getting influenced.

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