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For the sake of News, a Zee News initiative

Join the initiative to share your views and say no to the non-news content on news channel to maintain the sanctity of news.

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | May 16, 2011

In a decade or so a lot has changed in the way Hindi news channels function. From breaking news to matinee news various concepts have been tried to attract the viewers. Initially, small capsules of entertainment were provided in between hard bulletins. But soon the whole genre was dramatized. The ghosts were chased off and the crime scenes were reenacted. Saas Bahu took over serious news; astrologists became more visible than analysts and comedy content surpassed corruption stories. News content took beating and hype and triviality were presented in the garb of news.

Zee News felt the need to initiate a full blown discussion on what the meaning of news has come to be today and what it should be, especially during the prime-time when news in any form should be focus rather than Reality, comedy or astrology shows or any dramatized news content. The channel launched a pan India B2B campaign last week with an objective of giving corporate world a peep into the realm of Hindi news genre.

Emphasizing on the need for the campaign, Barun Das, CEO, Zee News Limited, said, “More often than not we are faced with the unfortunate incidence of channels passing off entertainment content as news on prime time. Not only do we frown upon the violation of the inviolability of news, but feel that such practices - solely for the purpose of garnering numbers - grossly underestimate the audiences’ intellect. Viewers today are not just discerning, they genuinely want to be informed citizens. Our campaign is aimed at bringing back ‘seriousness of purpose’ in dissemination of news.”

The campaign involved the industry leaders by inviting their voices and concerns on the issue besides the general public opinion shared on the campaign’s microsite. It was the depth of the issue raised by Zee News only which attracted several people and Industry experts to speak up.

Explaining what the news should be, Lynn de Souza, Chairman & CEO, Lintas Media Group said, Wiki defines the news as “Newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events.” Technically therefore any event of a current and noteworthy nature does get classified as news. Over the years, news has gone beyond the ambit of political and economic reportage, and sports, to cover many more societal aspects including the entertainment sphere. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Times have changed and we must move on with the times in order to stay relevant to our consumers.”

“But I would not place astrology and reality shows as news, but comedy is an editorial treatment not a genre, so if there is a humorous show featuring current events like The Week that Wasn’t, then it qualifies,” added Lynn.

Sam Balsara, Chairman and Managing Director, Madison World has a bit different view on this issue. Sam says,They say people get the government they deserve. Similarly we get the news channels we deserve. As long as news channels are dependent on advertising revenue for their success and not subscription revenue, programming will be dependant on what masses want to watch and not what editors (with discerning tastes, hopefully) believe what the nation should be fed upon.”

When we wanted to know, how the frivolity and non-news content affect an advertiser, Subhrangshu Neogi, Director – Brand & Corporate Communications, Religare Enterprises Limited told BestMediaInfo.com,In my view something like this diffuses your core preposition. So any offering any service or any genre for that matter has to be very laser targeted in terms of what we want to offer as an offerer to the viewer. In my view you are better off looking at you core area of expertise which is providing news and presenting news. Given the fact that you are kind of introducing these elements which are lighting the mode or giving viewers a much needed break from the hard news possibly end up diffusing their core preposition.”

“There’s nothing wrong in chasing TRPs. Because ultimately you are not running it for charity, you are running a business model. We better off monetize our core value preposition rather than bringing in an additional element which diffuses your core preposition. Competition is tough in international market also but they don’t diffuse their core preposition,” added Neogi.

When asked, does he refrain from sponsoring or advertising on the non-news content, Neogi replied, “Absolutely we do monitor the programming also. After all it is a matter of our brand value too. We never advertise during any non-news program.”

Another important drawback for the news channels in the long run is that deviation from core proposition may harm credibility. Bharat Kapadia, President of Lokmat Media Ltd, commonly known as Bharat Bhai, opines,In fact every channel has the right to show whatever they want but in the rat race of TRP, if you trivialize or sensationalize on unnecessary things then it is actually not news. To give importance to unnecessary developments or people should certainly be avoided. Viewers are also not very happy with such dilution.”

“If the channels show the comedy clips, viewer does understand what you are trying to do. This makes you lose your viewers who want to watch news. How long the viewers could be cheated? I must say that growth of print publications is also because of the lack of depth in the news content running on the news channels,” says Bharat Bhai.

Bharat Bhai finally concludes by saying, “Deviation from the core news is not going to benefit the channels in the long run. Rather it hits the credibility of the news channels. The viewers who understand English must have shifted to the English news channels. Hindi news channels have started losing their impact these days and the English news channels are being credited for many big change or development. If you are not being entertained by affluent or mature audience, even in smaller towns or villages, you are losing the value of your brand.”

Agreeing to Bharat Bhai, Mohit Joshi, Managing Partner, MPG India says, “I don’t think it will help the news genre in long run. It has been done to get short term attention, buzz and viewership on the platform. However the equity of the news channels is slowly getting eroded due to this deviation from the core content.”

Do media planners take the loyalty of viewers in consideration? Speaking on this, Joshi says, “With the hyper fragmentation and too many 'me-too' channels and genres what is differentiating the good from the others is content and we as media consultants value the audience loyalty of a channel very much. Even the advertisers look for loyal viewers so that their communication has higher probability of connecting with the audience.”

Smeeta Chakrabarti, CEO, NDTV Life Style Ltd. looked very specific while describing a channel as a news channel if it sticks to the news! Smeeta says, “I’d like to watch news in the name of news whatever the timing is. Exploring or inventing is in human nature hence it should only enhance the way of presenting the news. If you go out of news and still call it a news program, your audience will reject you. If people watch your program based on comedy or reality shows clips, that does not mean that they are watching you as a news channel at the given time. And losing this status among audience on regular basis certainly ruins your credibility. Specially at prime time, the channels should focus and put their energy on better news content and programming rather than running behind the TRP.

“If you take the example of some weird channels, I don’t call them news channel. I believe NBA too should stop calling them news channel because they do not add any value to the news genre. This is such an issue for which all of us are fighting,” concluded Smeeta.

Elated on the success of the campaign, Rohit Kumar, DVP, Marketing, Zee News says, “The month long campaign has achieved its objective in the first week and a lot more activities are planned for the coming weeks. Join the movement and share your views to say no to the non-news content on news channel to maintain the sanctity of news.”

Click here to know more about the campaign and join in the discussion.


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