News Next 2020: Are primetime news debates giving rise to echo chambers, experts ask

Panellists Tarun Nangia, Dileep Tiware, Sayeed Ansai, Smita Sharma, Archana Singh & Garima Singh discuss the changing ecosystem of primetime news

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Feb 24, 2020 9:09 AM
News Next 2020

Today, we're living in an era of transformation. Be it the politics, economy or the media, each industry is going through an age of disruptions. The media industry was quite simplistic a decade ago. But with the transformation, new problems arise in the industry. One of the most-criticised slots of all the time is the Prime Time debates and their anchors. The prime time TV debates and TV studios are being accused of becoming echo chambers. At the News Next Conference, we witnessed a panel discussion, which comprised seasoned journalists, seeking an answer to the crucial question: Are news studios promotion eco chambers of opinions?

Chaired by Tarun Nangia, Associate Editor- Special Projects, NewsX, the panel comprised Dileep Tiware, CEO, Zee MPCG/ Zee UP UK/ Zee PHH/ Zee Salaam; Sayeed Ansari, Executive Editor- Special Projects, Aajtak; Smita Sharma, Sr. Independent Journalist, Huffington Post/etv Bharat; Archana Singh, News Anchor, India TV; and Garima Singh, Channel Head/Sr Anchor, Sahara News Network.

While the panel were quite divided on the topic, a thought-provoking discussion followed. Tiware and Sharma opined that the TV channels have indeed become echo chambers and they clearly hold the anchors responsible for it. However, the other three panellists didn't comply with their thoughts. Differing with them, Singh, Garima and Ansari said that don't feel that TV studios have become echo chambers; rather, they believe, anchors are just bound to their duties.

Opening the discussion, session chair, Nangia asked the panellists to share their personal experience of being on the field and in the studio.

Tiware said that while being on the field as a reporter, one gets real-time experience and when you become an anchor, the same experience reflects in your work too. "For any anchor or a journalist, it is always good to be on the field to gain the real experience instead of sitting in the studio all the time. It is necessary to meet your potential viewers and fulfil your duty as a reporter first," he said.

Criticising the present newsroom practices, Tiware agreed that the newsrooms are becoming echo chambers and a majority of prime time anchors today are in dire need to go out on the field and rethink of their idea of anchoring. "I guess field and studio together make it perfect while the people sitting in-studio only shouts," he observed.

To which, Ansari countered, saying that the debate is not on "Reporters versus Anchors." He pointed out that the person sitting in the studio knows his duty very well and has reached that position after being a good reporter once.

Seconding what Tiware stated, Sharma said that In today's times, an echo chamber is an understated term to use for TV studios. "They're rather becoming a torture table."

Having worked on different mediums, she feels that today, TV has become the most aggressive one.

 "Whatever is happening in the debate show, is, unfortunately, a reflection of changing society as well as the transforming political system," she said in respect to primetime news anchors turning aggressive during debates.

Taking the session ahead, Nangia posed a question to Ansari: "How have you seen this changing ecosystem?" In reply, Ansari asserted that he doesn't think news debates are turning into echo chambers.

"It's just the 1-2 hours of primetime debates when we see aggressive debates, otherwise no channel does it all throughout the day. More than 20-22 hours, every channel presents different types of stories, polite debates and discussion, and not all of them are as aggressive as the prime time debates," said Ansari.

Supporting the thoughts of Ansari, Archana said, "It is very easy to put allegations on the anchor, however, it's not just the anchor alone who is responsible for everything that happens on that channel. Instead, there is a huge chain of people working behind the scenes."

Agreeing with Archana, Garima too said that from a news presenter or a prime time anchor, everyone is just a part of the news production process.

Instead of just criticising prime time anchors and calling their programs as an echo chamber, we should rather appreciate the efforts of the anchor who handles such varied panel and sets balance among panellists with their extreme opinions. 

Further, she added, we're in a phase of crises, the change is not only on the TV but in society too. But because media is visible to everyone, all criticism comes to the media at the end.

Together the panel concluded that be it aggression or politeness, too much of anything is bad and it is the key duty of every media house to avoid the chances of biases.

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