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For The Sake of News: Sanjay Bahadur, President, Marke Cerebre

The seasoned media veteran shares his views for The Sake of News; read the full conversation.

Q) In your view, what should be the limit for the news channels to show comedy or reality or dramatised content in the primetime?

I am not sure if and where we can draw actual quantification of such limits. But I do believe that many news-channels have evolved to ridiculous degrees of trivialization of news.

It is like merging the main news-section of a newspaper along with the city-supplement - except that, unlike in a newspaper, at least the reader has choice of what section or pages to pick. A domination of light content on a channel is coercing all their viewers to view the fickle for those many minutes.... And such minutes are only increasing, in the race to help achieve short-term objectives,

Q) Does the deviation from the core proposition i.e. news help the channel in long run?

Each news-channel develops its own set of strategies to gain salience and viewership. I don't think there's any right or wrong in what a channel adopts, as long as it delivers on strategy, atleast as far as commercial objectives go.

Having said that, from an ideological perspective as well as for developing a base of trusting viewers over the long-term, I am not sure if it helps the channel to deviate so alarmingly from its core proposition. The adverse results - by way of advertiser-perception and eventually revenues - do also show in many a case, as many channels have dismayingly witnessed.

Q) Do the advertisers ever think of content and so value the loyal audience concept?

Advertisers do indeed debate the values and merits of content-mix across channels. It would be naive to even assume that they go only by numbers and not content-quality.

A news-channel cannot go overboard into the realm of looking like a leisure or lifestyle channel (worse, into a sleaze-channel), and lose its very character. At best it will reap short-term gains, but the game eventually gets revealed.

I am not sure how many advertisers stay influenced by arguments, of what you call "loyal audience", beyond a point. Unfortunately, the game threatens to reduce to achieving sheer numbers much of the time. Despite this, there are enough instances where discerning advertisers do avoid or minimize advertising on certain "news"-channels despite their delivery of numbers, basis what they perceive as quality (read: trivialisation) of that channel's content.

Q) Where do you see the trend to go in future? Is it alarming?

See, as long as numbers come in - or as long as there is a desperation to build numbers whatever be the means - I reckon there will always be advocates and practitioners for over-trivialized content on "news"-channels. Unfortunate, but true. But in a logical evolution, an astute balancing of content between news and non-news will without doubt build long-term respect and buyability for such a channel.

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