TV as a medium won’t stay the way it is today: Gurdeep Singh Sappal, Swaraj Express

Gurdeep Singh Sappal, former CEO of Rajya Sabha TV and Amrita Rai, Managing Editor of the newly launched Swaraj Express spoke about the launch of the new venture

by Ruhail Amin
Published - Mar 25, 2019 8:37 AM Updated: Mar 25, 2019 8:37 AM

Having conceptualised and established the public sector broadcasting channel Rajya Sabha TV (RSTV), Gurdeep Singh Sappal, former CEO of RSTV has launched his new venture Swaraj Express. His new venture has also roped in RSTV’s popular anchor and former Executive Producer Amrita Rai, who is now the Managing Editor of Swaraj Express. In an interview with exchange4media, the duo spoke about their new venture and how they plan to bring their public service broadcasting experience to this private venture.


What is the motive behind launching a new channel at this time?

Gurdeep Singh: As you know, we are witnessing extreme clutter in the news marketplace and we cannot leave everything to this chaos and noise. Such is the nature of this noise that people are moving to social media platforms to get first-hand information and we feel it is the right time to address this issue.

I also think TV news players over the years have failed to provide wholesome coverage to their viewers. If you look at TV news channels and the kind of content they carry, all of them are focusing on the same 25 stories throughout the day, and there is no differentiation. We have decided not to follow this pattern, and out of 25 stories that we carry, 20 will be different. That is the kind of differentiation we are bringing to the viewers who have become more discerning today.

Amrita Rai: People have increasingly moved to social media platforms to get real news and also to express themselves. Today’s news channels are not able to provide them the information that they want and we want to fill this vacuum with the help of this new venture.

Having helmed the public broadcasting space for many years and now getting into the private broadcasting domain; tell us how are the two different in your view?

Gurdeep Singh: Public broadcasting is a different area. When I was heading that, the idea was to provide space to news which the private sector will never carry because of profitability issues. So Rajya Sabha TV was created around the premise that the public broadcaster has to be the voice of those people who never get a chance to get featured on private channels.

Having moved from public to private, our approach is the same.  Here also we are trying to cover the marginalized sections and even developing bulletins for tribals etc. We know initially this may not bring us revenue, so the philosophy that media is not just a business is what we deeply believe in, and we are carrying it from Rajya Sabha TV to this venture.

With elections around the corner, do you think it is going to benefit new players like you? How are you looking at this big political event?

Gurdeep Singh: We are not looking at elections as a means to revenue generation. We have decided internally that we will go out in the field and start earning revenue from advertisements only after the elections are over. Till these elections are on, we will only be focusing on journalistic aspects and nothing else as there is a need for a serious journalistic venture to win back the trust of the masses.

Amrita Rai: From a content point of view, the election is a great time; we are not looking at the revenue aspect at this stage as explained. We see elections as a time to find a deeper connect with our viewers and understand their pulse through stories that are impactful.

Finally, how do you see the news space evolving in the next two to five years given the rise of digital and social platforms and changing consumption patterns?

Gurdeep Singh: TV as a medium won’t stay the way it is today. The kind of high pitch engagement that we witness on TV today cannot be sustained for long. News has to be pure and direct and it will return to that.

Moreover, the integration of TV and social media, which is already happening, will gain more momentum as it has become an irreversible process.

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