India's top brands want news channels to stop being toxic, warn they could pull the plug on advertising

Leading advertisers say they are concerned about the rising toxicity on news channels and may even reconsider their ad spends if the news broadcasters don't get serious about their content. Advertisers feel there are serious questions related to brand safety when it comes to advertising on news channels

Niraj Sharma
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India's top brands want news channels to stop being toxic, warn they could pull the plug on advertising

A cartoon by Satish Acharya

In a move that could hit the advertising revenues of India’s news channels, some of the country’s top advertisers have expressed concern over the rising toxicity in news content in the name of gaining TRPs.

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In a conversation with, the advertisers hinted that they would relook at their overall TV news adex if the situation doesn’t improve.

Impact: NBA urges advertisers to keep away ‘hate-mongers’, says President Rajat Sharma

Also read: More brands join chorus against toxic content on news channels, seek immediate course correction

Krishnarao Buddha 

“As a viewer and advertiser, I really feel the news channels have stooped to a pathetic state and if the advertisers have the opportunity to break this vicious cycle, they must do it collectively and be a real purpose-driven brand. While doing this, we should state the reason that we are all doing it because of the content. I agree that such an environment is dangerous for any brand because it comes back to hounding it,” said Krishnarao Buddha, Senior Category Head, Marketing, Parle Products.

RS Sodhi

Amul’s RS Sodhi also said that news channels were instilling negativity in the minds of youngsters and it was about time for advertisers to act.

Also read: Nudge from advertisers may force news channels into course correction, say industry experts

“Amul currently spends 35-40% of its total television budget on news. Undoubtedly, news channels are an important medium to reach out to the consumer and hence you cannot stop advertising on them completely. But, having said that, you can always pressure the ones that do not behave. Without mentioning any particular incident, we can definitely tell them to behave and not to show unwanted aggression,” said Sodhi of Amul, adding he would speak to the brand’s media agency to suggest the way forward.

The advertisers feel that the top advertisers should come together and convey it to the news channels that their tactics and questionable content ethics are making the platforms unsafe for brands.

“I’m recommending all the leading advertisers to come together and ban the news genre until they are forced to bring sanity and ethics in news back. I’m saying the entire news genre because somewhere they will have to bring in honesty in reporting and not create stories only keeping TRPs in mind, which ultimately is poisoning the same mind,” Krishnarao Buddha of Parle Products said.

“Initially, I thought it would be difficult to bring all advertisers on the same page but it is not impossible if most of the big advertisers think from a perspective of creating a safe environment for their brands and if they continue to be called as purpose-driven brands,” Rao added.

Several brands have already reduced their advertising on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, reasoning that the platforms weren’t safe for them because of the rising hate speech and toxicity.

Another leading advertiser, Future Group, said that it was the need of the hour for all advertisers to be more responsible.  

Pawan Sarda

“Brand safety should be a bigger concern for TV news nowadays. The language that these channels have been using, I don’t want my kids to be consuming that content and if I think this for my kids, it applies to my brands too. It’s important for us to come together and being responsible is extremely important right now. Every advertiser needs to play that part,” said Pawan Sarda, Group Head, Digital, Marketing and E-commerce, Future Group.

“It is just now eyeballs alone. It is also about where you are pitching, in what spirit, atmosphere, environment, it is equally important. As an advertiser, we believe in this a lot because an atmosphere for pitching a brand is equally important,” Sarda added.

According to another top FMCG brand, they are totally against the rise of crass content on TV news and they wielded the power of doing what the government, the NBA and the Supreme Court couldn’t do; follow the programming codes and journalistic ethics. “I strongly feel the news channels are going overboard and they need to be told that our monies are not for instilling hatred, disrespect and aggression in our consumers,” said a FMCG brand CEO, requesting anonymity.

Recently, in a case related to Sudarshan TV where the News Broadcasters Association was made a party, SC asked the association to come up with suggestions on how it could be given “more teeth” so that it could act against the TV channels for violating programme codes or broadcasting something in bad taste.

The NBA recommended ways in which the self-regulatory mechanism of the News Broadcasting Standard Association (NBSA) can be strengthened. The TV news coverage of the Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case and what followed after that has been widely criticised.

Shashank Srivastava

Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director, Sales and Marketing, Maruti Suzuki India Limited, said, “As a principle, it is a good idea for advertisers to invest in media with good and clean content. Brands generally would not like to be associated with malicious or disrespectful content.”

He, however, said brands should stay away from dictating news channels on what content to run. “Whether the advertising money can or should direct content is a debatable issue. And even if it was desirable or possible there is that equally vexatious issue of who and what decides what content or behaviour is aggressive or malicious or vilifying. As a society, we have to define what is acceptable and what is not. And work in accordance to that,” he said.

Why brands have been scared of reducing TV news adex

Though brands understand that TV news isn’t a safe space for them anymore, they are still scared of reducing advertising on news channels as they have seen broadcasters undertaking arm-twisting techniques.

“Somewhere advertisers have a fear and they find excuses to advertise on news channels because they have the power to arm-twist any brand. For example, if any brand gets into any controversy, they will go to the extent to kill the brand. It has happened with us in the past and we got negative headlines because we did not advertise on certain media,” Rao of Parle Products said.

Some of the other brands voiced similar concerns and requested not to be quoted on the issue. A leading Pan Masala brand told that they cannot comment on the issue as they could be an easy target for news channels.

(With inputs from Akansha Srivastava and Akanksha Nagar)

India's top brands news channels stop being toxic