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

Industry leaders have voiced their support for advertisers who are willing to cut down on advertising on news channels if broadcasters continue to air aggressive and toxic content in the name of news

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

Several industry captains and experts have expressed their concern over the state of India’s news channels, saying the on-going toxicity and unwanted aggressiveness in content doesn’t bode well for advertisers in terms of brand safety.

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After published the article, ‘India’s top brands want news channels to stop being toxic, warning they could pull the plug on advertising’, it sparked a debate on social media and business news channels on whether advertisers should influence the content or not.

Supporting the move suggested by some of the country’s top brands, Pooja Thakran, Communications & Brand Expert, Director, Corporate Comms with Honeywell, tweeted saying it was a great way of reducing the toxicity in news. 

“India’s top brands want news channels to stop being toxic, warn they pull the plug on advertising. That’s a great way to enforce some dignity n reduce toxic lash out. Kudos to brands like @Amul_Coop #Parle Urge more to follow @ibfindia @aaaiindia,” her tweet read. 

Commenting on the article, noted actor and director Farhan Akhtar tweeted, “Sincerely hope that the top brands in question follow through on their valid concern about vitriolic news reporting.”, on Monday, had reported that brands such as Amul, Parle Products, Future Group and Maruti have expressed their concern over the rising toxicity in news content. The brands have even hinted towards relooking their overall TV news adex if the news channels don’t mend their ways. The advertisers feel that news channels may not be the right platforms in terms of brand safety. Several advertisers have already boycotted Facebook in the recent past for the same reason. 

The Supreme Court has already expressed its concern over the falling levels of quality of journalism being practised by news channels and has even asked the government to come up with ways to control the hate speech being spread by a few channels.

Tweeting on the story, media commentator Vanita Kohli Khandekar said, “Will they? It would be nice to see some integrity and spine among advertisers, broadcasters and audiences. This monster was created by them.”

However, some experts also suggested that brands cannot pressure news channels on what content to show or not show. But they can still advise if the majority of the channels were going totally off-track. 

Former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta went on to the extent of suggesting that all news channels should be made paid so that there is no mad chase for TRPs. He tweeted, “This is a viewpoint worth noting — I would suggest a step further and make news channels all pay (no advertising) — from 400 it may go down to 40 but then people will get the news they want — and the mad chase for numbers and trash will end.”

During a discussion on CNBC-TV18, filmmaker R Balki said news is a credible medium and if the channels continued serving hateful and non-serious content in the name of news, it is better for brands to stay away.

IPG Mediabrands CEO Shashi Sinha also acknowledged that there was a problem with content on news channels but the external custodians cannot do much.

Fashion photographer Atul Kasbekar asked the brands to follow suit. He tweeted, “I hope this is accurate and the brands out there follow through on this and cease advertising to some of these channels: Down pointing backhand index.”

Former journalist Sandip Ghose tweeted saying, “This should be a subject of serious discussion. Many TV anchors seem to think BARC ratings is all that matters. Just like in print — circulation ain’t everything the ad environment equally important. #Brands #Advertising.”

Mitrajit Bhattacharya, Managing Committee Member of The Advertising Club, said, “Only a pushback by advertisers will help reduce toxic news content on TV.”

Former journalist Gautam Machaiah tweeted, “Finally there is some hope. Advertisers threaten to pull the plug if news channels do not stop being toxic. Who would want to be associated with a negative platform that spews venom?”

Media observer John Thomas commented, “Self-regulation of the news #media in India is not working and questions (as WION is asking have been raised.

What if top advertisers unitedly tell TV channels they will not bankroll questionable content?”

The creative community also rallied behind the brands that want the news channels to stop being toxic.

Anil Nair, CEO, VMLY&R India, termed the move by the brands as corporate social responsibility.

Soumitra Karnik, Chief Creative Officer at Dentsu Impact, Dentsu India and macgarrybowen India, sought a logical conclusion from the conversation.

Azazul Haque, Chief Creative Officer, Mullen Lintas, took Facebook to support the brands and wrote, “As an advertising voice of the industry I totally support such brands and such voices that oppose toxic journalism!!”

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