Definite efforts are visible in news channels to promote positive tonality in news instead of promoting negativity, sensation, anxiety and despair, said Harsha V Agarwal, Director, Emami. He was speaking on the impact of BestMediaInfo’s initiative against toxicity in TV news and prospects of a 24x7 news channel around good news content — Good News Today.
Agarwal said that the increased toxicity in news content, which touched its peak last year, led to a certain shift in news consumption patterns, and not in a good way.
"Some consumers have consciously moved away from the news content by channels that generally focussed more on the negative perspective of developments and sensationalised it. While consumers do want to be kept informed on the developments in and around their environment, too much of negative tonality in presenting the news was found to be extremely disturbing, thereby destroying their mental peace," he said.
From an advertiser’s point of view, Agarwal said presenting 24x7 good news content is a nice thought and if the content is relevant, engaging and interesting for everybody in the household, the channel will automatically be preferred by the consumers and advertisers too will follow suit.
Emami has been a large spender on the news genre. What is your observation on the current state of news television?
According to our consumer data, there has been a sharp fall in consumption of news content on television, which is a clear indication that consumers have consciously moved away from the news content by channels that generally focussed more on the negative perspective of developments and sensationalised it. While consumers do want to be kept informed on the developments in and around their environment, too much of negative tonality in presenting the news was found to be extremely disturbing, thereby destroying their mental peace, which led to visible reduction in news consumption, as our data reveals.
Do you see BestMediaInfo’s initiative against toxicity in TV news content changing the way the channels were operating of late?
Over the past few months, we have sensed a certain shift in content in some of the news channels. Definite efforts are visible in some to promote content with more positive and humane tonality instead of promoting negativity, sensation, anxiety and despair. Though this trend in shift is yet to be considerably significant, but it is evident that news channels are trying to work on it. In a democratic setup like ours, content of all kinds will always be available for consumption. Ultimately it is the consumer who will decide the future of any trend shift.
Some defend and justify themselves by saying there is toxic and regressive content all over social media. How would you react to them?
In my view, social media is much more of a democratic platform that is driven not only by content creators but also by consumers. Viewers have the freedom to choose content channels, influencers or thought leaders as per their choice, share their own opinions and experiences and also read through diverse views shared by other netizens – helping one to judge and form a more balanced decision. News channels, on the other hand, are just a one-way communication. During the second wave of the Covid pandemic, social media turned out to be a very effective platform for many netizens seeking help in connecting their requirement with relevant sources. The role of social media proved to be far more positive and balanced as compared to other communication platforms.
According to you, what should an ideal new channel be like?
News channels should ideally be a platform that offers balanced content catering to all the members in a family. We find that news channels are generally watched during a common time by family members who own a single TV set. Hence, instead of too much of toxic realities and especially repeat of such news, constructive and informative content that can be consumed by all age groups in a family is preferred.
How would the advertisers react to a channel with content that is useful for the public, teaches them all the hacks for a better living, and can be classified as a good news channel?
Advertisers will ultimately follow consumers. If the content is relevant, engaging and interesting for everybody in the household, the channel will automatically be preferred by the consumers and advertisers too will follow suit. An advertiser would ideally like to be present on every news channel if they are relevant to the consumers unless the channels air objectionable content or take a controversial and biased stance.
Moreover, today, an advertiser is spoilt for choices with digital platforms offering wider scope to reach out to the consumers compared to a more restricted scope of television channels. Today, it is more of a choice between the platforms rather than a choice between different channels. An advertiser will always choose the platform that offers higher consumer preference.
What is the potential for a channel that can offer 24x7 good news content?
Presenting 24x7 good news content is a nice thought, although it would be challenging to gather good news content in reality that could be refreshed at regular intervals. In the absence of fresh good content on a 24x7 news channel, the consumers would tend to switch off as they wouldn’t like to hear repeats of same news every two hours. It is a fact that many a time, channels do not get enough material to report and have no option but to include negative developments. Further, unpleasant incidents and tragedies are part of our life. People would like to know real news. An ideal news channel would be the one that airs whatever is important and relevant, irrespective of whether it’s bad or good, in a factual and balanced manner without any additional sensationalising. This would help them to garner respect of the viewers if the news is presented in an authentic manner.