Friday, January 20, 2006


[Updated: Read the updates to this post below]

{Also cross-posted at the Indian Media Bash Blog. Read Here}

There is lots of news going on about news media in India. A whole bunch of new channels have sprouted in a very short period of time, and the journalistic world is all upbeat about the variety and richness in content that is expected by this increase in the number of channels. Many blogs have also commented on this topic, like here and here. I remember vaguely when Star News started in the mid-90s with Prannoy Roy’s NDTV providing the content. This started the change in the way people got news, very different from the way DD news used to handle it. The content was more opinionated and the journalists were also more “involved”. From the famous “News-Readers” of the DD era like Minu Singh and Usha Albuquerque we grew up to “News-Presenters” like Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt.

News with Views

Talk shows and debates also got introduced into the news channels. Shows like “The Big Fight” and “We the People” hosted by Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt respectively very not only a must see on Saturdays and Sundays, but both of them attained cult status with the our generation. Compared to the days of dull news reporting of DD, this was a paradigm change and people’s voices were heard. They asked tougher questions than those before them, but many felt a bias of a socialist nature in the views expressed by them. This also started the interesting trend of news channels making an “Impact” on the people’s lives. From taking the case of finding homes for abandoned babies to generating aid for a blind girl to go to school, news channels connected with the audience in a way, so as to involve them in social stigmas.

Channel Mela

The completion of Star news’ contract with NDTV saw the launch of new channels like 24X7 and India by NDTV. While these channels maintained the same look, feel and content like their earlier persona as Star News, Star TV itself took the tabloid way out. At the same time, the India Today group which had been running the highly successful Aaj Tak, Hindi news channels launched Headlines Today in English. Although Headlines Today is similar (Very generalized word) in its feel with NDTV, the competition has never been fierce. Unfortunately for HT, their tag line of “Sharp news for sharp people” has not caught on, and the only news presenter most people can associate with HT is Jujhar Singh and not for his news reading skills but for his funny accent!

NDTV 24X7 is still my most preferred news channel. Apart from Prannoy Roy, the dependable and seasoned presenter/head honcho of NDTV, five presenters stood out, Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt each with their trademark shows and Vikram Chandra, Arnab Goswami and Sonia Verma with the daily news. Around an year ago, Rajedeep Sardesai went missing from the screens of NDTV and from the show the Big Fight and finally about a six months ago I read in the print media that he was now editor in chief of “IBN- India Broadcast News”, and with a tie up with CNN was soon to launch a channel of his own. To be very frank, I did not notice the exit of Arnab Goswami from NDTV, until I saw him as a presenter in the promotional features of a yet to be launched new channel “Times Now” from the Times of India Group. Barkha Dutt & Vikram Chandra are still active on NDTV, but Sonia Verma is a rarity these days, although I doubt if she is involved with another channel.

Bite from the NDTV apple.

Now that CNN-IBN is out and a couple of months old, the similarities with NDTV are not easily hidden. It is not very surprising since many from the NDTV staff have been poached by Rajdeep for his channel. Anubha Bhosle, Suhasini Haider, Priyanjana Dutta are just some of them who have made the switch from NDTV to CNN-IBN. Even Headlines Today has lost a few like HR Venkatesh to CNN-IBN. If NDTV started the sensationalization of news to some extent and Headlines Today was one step ahead, I think CNN-IBN is taking it to the next level. But I think the team there deserves some latitude from the viewers in this regard, as they are a young channel and still finding their footing in the market.

But a few things do look and feel a little funny with CNN-IBN. I found it very amusing to note that CNN-IBN gives fancy names like “Chief Cricket Correspondent” and “Chief International Affairs Correspondent” to their journalists similar to the fancy names for their shows like LOC- The Love of Cricket! But, Sonali Chander of NDTV with her flirtatious attitude towards Navjot Sidhu does a much better job of covering cricket, than Nishant Arora of CNN-IBN. Another thing new which I observed with Rajdeep’s channel was the CNN-like feel to hosting news shows. The anchor in the studio is not the overall compeer, but field reporters also link to other field reporters while developing a story. This kind of tagged-presenting is very common with CNN’s anchor driven shows like Anderson Cooper 360, or News Night with Aaron Brown.

It is taking Whatever!

There is a deluge of media portals that have opened up recently. General news channels like NDTV and Zee News have also sprouted business channels like NDTV profit and Zee Business to compete in the business news space with CNBC-TV18. With all this activity in the TV space, radio and print are not far behind. With the recent legislation of allowing more private FM players into the market, maybe we will soon have a city based radio news channel as well. The print media has seen brand new papers like Mumbai Mirror and DNA in Mumbai and the entry of Hindustan Times into the Mumbai market. With the economy of Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad also booming, it won’t be long before many news papers start making a foray into these markets as well. Finally, the greatest revolution in news media is going to be in the internet space with the Blogosphere gaining popularity as in your face kind of journalism. The plethora of ideas and vastness of the coverage that the Blogosphere is made up of cannot be ignored. With the world moving towards a pod-casting, RSS- Really Simple Syndication and Push Button Publishing kind of a market, the content is not only going to get diverse, but also very customer specific.

Update 1:
I think, CNN-IBN's "Whatever it takes" tag-line is going a bit too far. Today another "CNN-IBN IMPACT" feature was aired. Titled "The King is Dying" it was about the dwindling population of Lions in the Gir Forest in Gujrat. The creepy part was that it was hosted by a person called "Bahar Dutt", sporting a bob-cut look, with gestures and reporting style very similar to NDTV's Barkha Dutt! Come on Rajdeep! You can do better! [Unfortunately, the poor corrspondent is not to be blamed for having a similar name and look, but I smell a rat somewhere!]-21/1/2006

Update 2:
As indicated by an anonymous commentator and later google verified by me it is confirmed that Bahar Dutt is actually Barkha's sister. So no blame can be passed to her about the similarity of gestures with her sis!


Unknown said...

just curious, would you want to contribute to the india media bash blog?

Anonymous said...

Weel, Bahar is Barkha's sister in real life... She can't really be blamed now can she?

Unknown said...

whoa. two sisters working for 2 rival channels. funk!!!

Anand Rao said...

@ Anonymous: Thanks, I did NOT know that. Ya come to think of it, they looked pretty similar too. Anyway, i am completely not blaming Bahar Dutt here, rather on a general note commenting about how CNN-IBN's look feel and anchors are trying to give a NDTV feel to it!

@Sushubh Dude tell me how and i would love to contribute!

Anonymous said...

This comment comes pretty late in the day, but Burkha and Bahar got their names from the beautiful song:

O Sajna Burkha Bahar Aayi .....

Custom Search