“Broken” News!!!

It’s a common belief that “The More the Merrier”. Particularly if you are a consumer. One always gets a better deal if there is choice. The fact that you can exercise your freedom of choice makes marketers to provide a better deal in terms of Quality, Quantity, Value for Money, the works. It is also said that in a crowded market place, brands try to differentiate themselves. Differentiation by way of form, quality, price, positioning in the mind or overall offering and vie for the consumer’s wallet. But in India, there seems to be one product category which defies all these economic fundamentals. Here More is actually Less!!! Even in an overcrowded market place there is hardly any product differentiation. From one brand to another, they only provide good advertisements for “Cloning”. And when the number of players increase the overall quality keeps falling. Irony dies a thousand deaths at our drawing homes every day and night. Yes, welcome to the world of 24*7 News channels in India!!!

breaking news

I belong to what I refer as the Doordarshan generation. A generation which grew up without much choice for anything but stayed contented. During our growing up times, DD was the only source of entertainment as well as visual news. So the 9’o clock prime time news bulletins were indeed bulletins which walked us through the important happenings of the day. The news readers were news readers and not “Anchors”. They were reading news and were not engaged in endless hysterical debates. At our homes, one of our favourite games at the dinner table used to be guessing who will be the newsreader that night – Among people like Minu, Geetanjali Iyer, Rini Khanna, Tejeshwar Singh, Usha Albuquerque, Sunit Tandon, Neethi Ravindran,…,… Blame it on my memory if I missed a few others.  Apart from consuming news, as youngsters we also had the opportunity to imbibe the way they modulated their voice, their English diction and the overall presentation.  Even sans the choice the prime time news bulletin served its purpose effectively of keeping us informed of current affairs in India and abroad.

Now cut to what I call as “Boredarshan” times and rapidly transcending now to “Boordarshan” times!!! Today, in the 24*7 news channel space we are spoilt for choice.  Or are we???

At any point in time, try to exercise that power of your choice. Across all channels invariably prime time news will start and end with debates where the participants across channels will be the same. I guess for the political parties, it is easy to prepare one spokesperson for a topic and make him/her parrot the same arguments across all channels. In any case as he/she moves from one channel to another, he will anyway meet the same counterpart from the opposition as well!!! Not just prime time debates. A new book is hitting the store? Between 2 days you will find the author providing “exclusive” interviews to 10 different channels! (As per English dictionary, the word “Exclusive” in its noun form means ‘an item or story published or broadcast by only one source! So how does showing up in different channels is termed exclusive has been elusive to me).  Come Friday and a new film is being released? You will see the film crew parading from one studio to another in the National Capital Region doing the same silly things in the guise of “Promoting” the film! And somebody emerges as the newsmaker of the day? You could meet her/him in all channels that day. (Except if the newsmaker is Lalit Modi 😃 He only gave interview this time to one channel that too in Montenegro! While the other channels also reached the Adriatic coast he changed his mind and refused to oblige). The questioners sound the same. The questions sound the same. There is a race among channels to get interviews from the newsmakers that very same day. And on weekends the channels dish out similar content like Retro Bollywood stuff, Tech reviews,…

Not just content. If you look at the style – Among anchors and reporters there seems to be no differentiation.  All anchors by and large keep interrupting and do not allow the participants to complete one sentence. As I had penned in my earlier post DA 24*7 (Read here) we find Devil’s Advocates in all hues 24*7 in news channels. Come weekends all the “Star” Devil’s Advocates take a break and leave their fiefdom to their juniors who undergo on the job training to what else – interrupt!!!

Even on form, differentiation seems to be zilch. The template across all channels seems be a crowded screen with too many details populated.

And oflate their own marketing and advertising also look similar. Every channel claims to be No.1 in viewership😲 Damn the devil which is in the “*”!!! And all of the channels cry hoarse against Noise, Sensationalism,… and exactly do that. Day in and Day out!

So what’s going on wrong here? One could blame it on the TRP driven advertising revenue model for the channels. So when one channel with a certain content/style/form gets high TRPs, the others follow the same. But I would blame it on the “TRP model” itself. I am not too sure if the present TRP system captures the preferences of the viewers accurately. For a diverse country like India, I do feel a more heterogeneous viewership capture system is the need of the hour. Lest in the garb of “the Nation wants to know” we will continue to hear more noise and less news – across all channels. And if you still recall  “broken Record” of yore, news will continue to be that – “Broken” News as you switch from one channel to another😞😞

Postscript: Recently I was forwarded this clip on WA. Wonder if we will ever get to see such an interviewer who doesn’t interrupt and an interviewee who doesn’t get flustered and stays calm throughout, in these times in India. Check it out.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MATAqeiL-4)

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23 thoughts on ““Broken” News!!!

  1. ashok says:

    Those days, news were crisp, informative and fact-presenting. The then news readers were as popular as any celebrities. But, now a days, it has become a circus and a pro-depression agent. Any alien who watches this hysteric activity, will vanish in no seconds. Get Abstain from these mental torturing exercises. ( Guessing the name of news readers was fun….. ha ha ha … Soukanya, Mathews, ……..)

    Like

  2. SHANKAR BHARADWAJ says:

    Anand, Fantastic article!! The names you have missed might be Ramu Damodaran, Mrinalini and Komal GB Singh on the DD.The Clip of Indira Gandhi , I only hope the Congis have taken it out again to assert now to regain their lost glory it has lot of marketing stuff!!! Shankar

    Shankar

    Like

  3. Suri says:

    Anand, You have taken up a really interesting topic that bugs me as well. Not just in India, the same thing happens in UK channels as well, to a point that I wonder if the channels share the content with each other, so they can all survive. What is worse is that they copy and paste it into radio channels too!! Well done

    Like

  4. PS Kannan says:

    RSA ……Another nicely written article..Prime time newstime in Indian (Eng) channels has been reduced to Shouting bouts..and unfortunately dominated by the likes of AG….When the ‘Anchor’ is subdued the guests take over ..Either way it’s a slot of ‘No value’ wrt getting ‘News’ as we would like to know..
    u’ve remembered all the names..I wud’ve forgotten quite a few myself..But i think the list is complete!!
    ps: And thanks for he link with Late Indira’s Interview!!

    Like

  5. k.r.j says:

    An and I still keep nostalgic memories of those days. At that time there was only latest news. News were not broken. As you said whole family sat together to listen 9 pm news.There was a healthy competition between the readers. Even Doordarsan seriels were very good Many classics were chosen for seriels.

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  6. Your write-up is a nice throwback to those golden years with all those news readers ….there’s one lady you missed out on mentioning…Salma Sultan with the rose tucked coyly in just above the ear…They had no pretensions of what their job was..presenting the news and not manufacturing or (mis)analyzing it. Am quite sure all this TRP data is fabricated, too…

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  7. arunmozhi b says:

    Very true….most of the time when i come to india, i get turned off by the news channels…the shouting matches, sensationalism and lack of depth…there are thousands of channels but nothing interesting. News is news only when it is ‘new’…

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  8. BULAND Singh SEKHON says:

    Its soooooooo well written. Though I was born in late 80s. But still I can understand.
    Most of d debates r unnecessary, & the host hardly allows d defending party to put forward their stand.
    The news is no more a news. Its more of an entertainment for d viewers. Me n my folks still watch d evening news on ‘DD’. As its news n ONLY NEWS

    Liked by 1 person

  9. BULAND Singh SEKHON says:

    .Its soooooooo well written. Though I was born in late 80s. But still I can understand.
    Most of d debates r unnecessary, & the host hardly allows d defending party to put forward their stand.
    The news is no more a news. Its more of an entertainment for d viewers. Me n my folks still watch d evening news on ‘DD’. As its news n ONLY NEWS.

    Like

  10. Sir, I completely agree with your write up here. I can see your deep insight in analyzing these boring breaking news of Indian news channels. Freedom of expression for press is being utilized for commercial benefits and spoiling the perception of audience towards global issues.

    Like

  11. R.Prathap says:

    Well written RSA. You took us back to the DD news memories of 90s where it used be more of news and less of rhetoric…. Earlier it was difficult for someone to pluck me out of newstime, post 9 P.M. Off-late I too quit Primetime 9AM, probably as a silent protest against Arnab the great!!! Tried malayalam news instead, addiction you know!!! But bored of Omnipotent guys sitting at different channels at the same time with same views and all claim to be LIVE !!!

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  12. Kannan Jaganathan -WTJ says:

    Anand .. Its a wonderful article .. well articulated and nostalgic .. You could have also touched on All India Radio , which was part of our times.. dueing student days .. Saroj Naryan swami was a regular and his voice had clarity and news was succint

    Like

    • Hi WTJ, thanks for reading and for your feedback. Yeah I remember Saroj Narayan Swami and her voice very well. I still vividly recall her broken voice when she was on air on the day of Indira Gandhi’s death!

      Like

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