‘We will counter shrillness with intensity, noise with depth & breadth’

Zakka Jacob, Executive Editor, CNN-News18, talks about the revamp coinciding with the 'no BARC ratings' period, the channel’s primary focus areas and more

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Nov 3, 2020 8:28 AM
CNN news18

A little over a week back CNN News18 changed its look as a part of their rebranding exercise. According to the English news broadcaster, the idea is to reiterate its editorial positioning of pure, balanced and fast news.

For the channel, rebranding was a conscious step taken towards channelling facts and staying away from controversial content. Getting rid of any sort of toxicity in content is a primary part of the revamping agenda for CNN News18.

The channel has also adopted a graphic design template in HD format. For the viewers’ experience, the screen in the new avatar is being divided into multiple columns, making it look bigger, bolder and better to understand.

In a chat with e4m, Zakka Jacob, Executive Editor, CNN-News18, talks about the revamp and what it means for the brand.

Excerpts:

Tell us a little about the rebranding exercise. Why did you decide to do it now?

CNN-News18, which has always stood for fair, balanced and impartial journalism, also has a reputation for continuous innovation in keeping with an evolving aspirational India — an India that’s in a hurry to move up the economic and social ladder. The channel is now brighter, bolder and better. The attributes we want to capture with this exercise are newsy, buzzing and intensity. We had been planning on this for the last few months. It just so happened that BARC decided to pause ratings for three months. We decided, why not now! Turns out, the timing is perfect as a lot of people are noticing it.

What will be the primary focus areas of rebranded CNN-News18?

Our journalism is still going to be the same. We believe in telling stories that matter to viewers, and do it first, fairly and in a balanced manner. We want to serve up the news accurately and without a spin and unfettered by the political binaries of left or right. That said, the prism through which we will view the stories and their presentation will be one in national interest. We will continue to practise our brand of fair and balanced journalism. Testimony to that fact is that at a time political parties boycott one channel or the other, all of them unfailingly speak to us. That’s proof all sides think we are fair. While look and feels are good hooks to attract viewers, ultimately they will judge us by our content. And that content is always going to be guided by CNN-News18’s philosophy of ‘On Your Side’, meaning we are on the side of the viewers.

Would there be any change in editorial policy and content?

There won’t be toxicity, which unfortunately comes to define the genre in some minds. I think people are tired of the hate on TV that we see plaguing news TV these days. We will consciously try to move out of that kind of toxic environment. We will counter shrillness with intensity, noise with depth and breadth. We will keep up our focus on socially relevant causes and initiatives such as India Positive, Mission Paani and Swasth Immunized India. The attempt will be to shed light more on things you don’t normally see on news TV. At the same time we will also try to reduce the decibel levels of noise television. There will be new programming with new shows and revamping of existing shows, details of which will unfold in the coming weeks.

Your rebranding came in at a very interesting time. Tell us a little about journalism and news in times of the global health crisis.

Initially we were all wary about how can we do TV news from home. But we were one of the first companies to realize the threat posed by this pandemic and quickly divided our teams. By the second week of March, long before the lockdown, we were operating at 1/4th strength at any given point from office. We also divided our teams between two buildings in Noida. There was also a backup team which flew to Mumbai and was stationed there for over two months. I think this pandemic has been a great learning experience for all of us. We realized even critical functions in the newsroom like rundown and anchoring can be done from home. And viewers didn’t seem to mind. Our viewership had increased to 1.5 times of normal during the peak of the lockdown. Even now, it’s about 10-20% more than the same time last year. Also, advertisers are back fully. Our ad revenues have matched if not overtaken the levels around the same time last year.

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