We are trying to restore the respect and glory of TV news: Sudhir Chaudhary, Zee News

Sudhir Chaudhary, Editor-in-Chief of Zee News, Wion and DNA, on the much-talked-about Jindal controversy, allegations of being a pro-government journalist, and honesty and trust being the two important factors that keep a media organisation going

e4m by Abhishek Mehrotra
Updated: Sep 25, 2018 8:58 AM

He is a well-known news anchor and heads one of India’s oldest media houses. Sudhir Chaudhary, Editor-in-Chief of Zee News, Wion and DNA, believes that honesty and trust are the two important factors that keep a media organisation going. He talks to us about the challenges of heading such a big network, the much-talked-about Jindal controversy, the allegations of being a pro-government journalist and much more. Edited excerpts: 

What according to you are the three factors that work in favour of Zee News?

The most important factor is honesty. All our news reports, including my show, are shown with full honesty. Today, trust is the biggest issue facing journalism. People have lost trust in media. This lack of honesty and trust is the biggest gap in journalism now and we have tried to fill this gap.

Second is the choice of issues. Today, the connect between media and people has diminished. Media has different heroes and people have different heroes. Viewers often tell us that the people media covers are not their heroes and the people they consider heroes are not covered by media. This has increased the gap between viewers and media. We have tried to fill this gap by creating content as per the interest of the viewers.

The third reason is vibrancy. A channel should be able to convey the message in a better and simple manner, and there are several factors that contribute to this, such as the overall presentation of the news, the look of the studio, the look of the channel, the promptness of the channel etc. We have worked on all these factors.

But at the end of the day, the same technology and infrastructure is available to all channels. So what actually matters is the kind of content that you have, the kind of people who work on that content and the mindset of these people. And so I cannot say that only these three factors have contributed to our success.

With the credibility of TV news channels in question today, do you think people would continue to watch news channels?

I think people should not stop watching television news. We are trying to do justice to TV news. Our channel is trying to restore the glory and respect of television news.

Your channel is accused of showing a lot of news about government. How do you respond to this?

It is wrong to say that we show a lot of news about government. In fact, we don't show news about government, we show news about India. If you look at the personality of Zee News, you will realise that it is a very positive channel. The problem with media is that its very nature is negative. 99 per cent of the media talks about things that are not happening. They do not talk about things that are happening.

We are accused of showing news about government because when we show positive news about the country, people think we are showing positive news about the government, which is not the case. Today the media is divided in such a way that you are seen as either being pro-government or anti-government.

It is often said that TRPs can be misleading, what role does TRP play in deciding the content of a channel?

Actually there are two approaches in which a TRP chart is looked at. A news team can look at the TRP chart of the past three-four weeks and find out what kind of shows are getting higher ratings. For example, if non-news shows are getting higher ratings, the channel increases the number of such shows. Similarly, if debates are garnering higher ratings, then channels show more debates. Which means that the whole programming is being driven by TRP charts and not by your mind or gut feeling or your viewers’ response.

The other approach, that we at Zee News follow, is that we look at the TRP chart and that’s it. We don't discuss it. We believe that if we create good content, TRP will follow. Rating should always be a by-product. If you give good content, people will watch it, and if people are watching your content, then you will automatically get good ratings. We don’t believe in doing anything just because it will bring TRP.

Do you think that of late there has been a polarisation of media?

Yes, unfortunately, the media in the country has been polarised in the past four-five years. It has been divided into two factions on the basis of party line and ideology.

As far as Zee is concerned, all our channels are pro-Indian. Our Chairman Subhash Chandra, who is also our Editorial Director, has given us very clear instructions that we should show whatever is good for the country and the people of the country. And this is what I do. But today, the situation in the country is such that if you are somebody who is pro-India, you are called a right-wing supporter. And if you say things like ‘there is a sense of insecurity in the country’, you are termed secular and intellectual.

What about the recent removal of three senior journalists from a channel?

Three journalists were asked to leave a channel and the whole country is talking about it. In the last five years, nearly 1,000 people working in different media organisations have lost their job and nobody ever talked about it. The channels that are today talking in favour of these three journalists have themselves sacked so many journalists in the past. The removal of these three journalists is being linked to the country. It is being portrayed that had they stayed on, they would have changed the country. But the fact is that these three people have been in the media for the past 20 years, I want to know what have they done so far.

Naveen Jindal has withdrawn the bribery case against Zee and you. Your reaction?

I feel happy that I have finally got justice after six long years. And I feel lucky that it happened in just six years because our legal system is such that sometimes people don’t get justice even after 60 years. But I also feel sad that all kinds of false accusations were made against me and I had to face a lot of insult all these years.

Coming to you, heading Zee Media must be quite demanding, so how do you take time out for your show?

Its all driven by passion. I work very passionately. In the beginning, the duration of my show (DNA) was one hour, but then it was increased to one and a half hours. When we decided to start this show, we travelled across the country and met people to find out what they actually want. People told us that they were tired of ‘breaking news’, fake heroes and debates on news channels. I came back and analysed all that people told us and decided not to include those things in my show.  

Finally, can we expect a Padma award for you next year?
Before 2014, many journalists, doctors and advocates closed to the then Prime Ministers and ministers were given Padma awards. Most of the awardees were selected from Delhi. Even for journalists, winning a Padma award was the biggest achievement of their life. But I think that the biggest award for a journalist is the love and respect of the people. If the people of the country do not love and recognise you, what is the point of having a Padma award?
Translation credit: Shruti Supriya

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