Ratings, propaganda & perspective: Editors cover it all at News Next Conference 2019

The panel discussion, chaired by film producer and author Bhuvan Lall, talks about the need to get facts correct and avoid sensationalism 


The who’s who of the television news industry got together at the News Next Conference 2019 to share their perspective on how to keep news away from propaganda. 

Chairing the session was film producer and author Bhuvan Lall who is also the former secretary general of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation. 
The panelists for the session were: Milind Khandekar, Digital Editor, BBC India, Deepak Chaurasia, Editor In Chief at India News, Anil Singhvi, Managing Editor at Zee Business and Deep Upadhyay, Managing Editor at News 24. 

On the Pulwama terror attacks, Lall asked the panel if the media had been responsible enough to cover the sensitive issue. “Has the media done its bit?” Lall asked.

Chaurasia said, “You must have noticed that the news media across the nation especially television channels didn’t have any speakers from Pakistan to talk on the attacks. We didn’t want to sensationalise the issue.  We reported facts only. Not just in such cases, but for every news story there are two important factors that we keep in mind: objectivity and credibility. If these two are in place there will not be any scope for propaganda.” 

Lall questioned if in the recent times propaganda was being covertly packaged as credible news? “In a situation like Pulwama, isn’t the negative news the one that always comes out first? Is there unnecessary politicising of things?”

To this, Upadhyay spoke about the need for the editor to know how to react. “We try not to make the news delivering platform a place to settle personal political scores. In testing times like Pulwama, when there is very less time to react the editor must know how to react. We cannot start talking about politics and playing the blame game before we have the entire fact sheet,” he said.

Singhvi from Zee Business stressed on the need to check facts. “So when a news of this manner comes in, we don’t want to concentrate on reporting first if four people were killed or 14 died or 44 died. We wait for our facts, we check and then it put it up. That’s our way of putting out credible news,” he said.

Elaborating on propaganda, Singhvi said: “It is important for the media to define their audience. You need to understand what the audience wants - Do they want information or advice or perspective. If you give them what they want they will give you what you want, which is the ratings.”

Adding to that Chaurasia said, “The audience today has a lot of information from the social media, from friends and others. So there is no reason to underestimate them or consider them fools. Hence, they can identify propaganda. When a channel is running propaganda, packaging it as news, the viewer also forms an opinion about the channel because he can identify propaganda very well.”

“We should be speaking truth to power but what is happening is the reverse. That is where propaganda happens and that is not what should happen atleast in the newsroom. The editor at all times should know what is the right thing to do,” said Khandekar from BBC.

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