We are living in an era where there are as many NEWS channels as music or entertainment channels. Mushrooming of news channels does raise a question – is so much happening in reality or it is being made to happen to fill in all the television slots. How much of it is credible and how much is cooked up?
Credibility not only affects the information about the news but also affects the way viewers form an opinion about the news channel. Credible stories need credible narrators and there is cut-throat competition in the Indian media, particularly television.
There are so many factors which Indian viewers seek while watching the news like – accuracy of the news, timeliness, entertainment factor, well informed journalists, local national and international news, sports, instant broadcast of the breaking news, business news, political news, social news, etc. Every news channel takes one of these as a USP and focuses on it. While AAJTAK has been perceived to be the best in the field of reporting through entertainment, NDTV is more liked for its well groomed journalists.
But have news channels ever wondered about what are the factors that affect their credibility in the eyes of the viewers and how to improve them? This shall be really beneficial for news media outlets particularly because they are getting rough competition from “Social Media”. And it is not surprising that credibility associated with social media is very high as perceived by the social media fans.
The whole point about credibility is that facts are presented accurately and without any embellishment and the viewer recognizes this. It takes a lot to build credibility and very little to destroy it. Thus the focused priority for any news product such as a news channel or a newspaper is to safeguard its credibility. Often a few channels may resort to sensationalism in order to boost viewership. However, this strategy is not sustainable. One can either be credible or sensational. Most media companies have already made their choice, whether they want to be credible and accurate or try and get quick eyeballs through sensationalism by focusing too heavily on the entertainment factor. However, one cannot forget the fact that “viewers are intelligent and perceptive enough to know the difference”.
|According to Rajat Sharma (Editor-in-chief, India TV):- The media is like our army or the judiciary. It stands tall even as several institutions around it have lost their shine. Yet, like the two, media doesn’t remain untouched by what’s happening in society at large. If large sections of the society want sensation, the media, at best, dilutes such rawness. Conversely, when media eschews sensation and offers sane, responsible and researched stories, it expects support.|
|According to Tarun Tejpal (Editor-in-chief, Tehelka):- We must understand the fact that Indian reality is sensational in itself and representations of Indian realities will often be sensational. We should not get too hyper comparing Indian media reports with western. Indian reality is very sensational and, at any given point of time in this country, there are sort of critical battles going on, environmental battles going on, murders being committed, corruption charges being brought to the fore and so on. We have to recognize the fact that all this is the nature of the Indian reality. Secondly, there is a case that by focusing too heavily on sensationalism we may lose credibility. That is something that every media has to account for itself. Whether it is a television channel, newspaper or a magazine, they have to discover their stand. On the other hand, if the story is sensational then there is nothing that can be done about it. The story then has to be played out as honestly as possible. For example, if somebody finds members of Parliament misusing their constituency fund, then it’s sensational. What can one do about it? But the lines to be observed here are the ethical lines. Are we intruding into people’s private life, are we using dubious methods to expose? These are all ethical issues that all editors and journalists have to deal with.|
|On the other hand, NDTV has a completely different view to present.According to K V L Narayan Rao (Director, NDTV):- The whole point about credibility is that facts are presented accurately and without any embellishment and the viewer recognizes this. One can either be credible or sensational. I believe most media companies have already made their choice, whether they want to be credible and accurate or try and get quick eyeballs through sensationalism. The currency of news journalism is credibility and sensationalism can never replace that. The viewers are intelligent and perceptive enough to know the difference. For us at NDTV credibility is our most important value.
Irrespective of what the journalists and CEO’s of different television networks feel, when asked some academicians and other professionals who spend more than two hours a day on news channels as to what makes them a regular viewer of a particular news channel, this is what they responded.
G Krishnan, executive director & CEO at TV Today Network said, “TV is the only media whose performance is judged on a weekly basis and advertising revenues largely depend on the ratings the channel has secured each week.” Krishnan further said news channels are becoming bigger and better, in terms of content and technological brilliance. Of the 120 million TV homes, over 70% market is captured by Hindi speaking viewers.
Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami emphasised that television ratings are the only mechanism to judge the success of any channel. “Hence, our focus should be on viewers. If consumers are still hooked to a particular channel, there is no reason to worry,” he said.
It is debatable how this differential view of Arnab Goswami can be related to the wide spectrum of the Indian viewers.
It can be concluded that today’s viewers know exactly what they want and secondly, they have a choice of too many news channels. Hence, adding a bit of sensation and dramatization may add to the net acceptance of a news channel but over doing the same to an extent where reality gets over shadowed will not be a long lasting strategy. Very interestingly, even the regular viewers of AAJTAK acknowledge that AAJTAK has its own political and bollywood preferences and talking about dramatization factor, AAJTAK is perceived to be highly dramatized as compared to NDTV and other news channels.
Dr. Bhavleen Rekhi
Asst Prof – Marketing
IILM, Lodi Road