Mar 27, 2010

New 'News'

A while ago I was doing a piece of research for the BBC when I started paying closer attention to how much news format / content has changed in India in the last few years.

I've been witness to the change everyday - from the predictable Doordarshan 9 o'clock news - to the first glimpses of how slick / interesting private new channel feed could get through 'The world this week' - to engaging journalism of the early days when everything in the newly liberalized India was opening up and along came with it the influx of the first few private news channels - to splitting up of the NDTV team into splinter channels, the fight for TRPs and sensational journalism - to its current avataar where the content bears little resemblance to what we once knew of news. And so, had not thought about the extent things have changed, until recently.

During the research discussions people's reactions ranged from nostalgia about the older days to outrage at the trash that is thrown at our face and sometimes humor. Since we were benchmarking to BBC the transition from 'news' to 'new news' seemed quite stark. A few interesting snippets -

  • We have seen a general 'dumbing down' - instead of talking about the Prime Minister's outlook on the economy, news channels cover his hospital visits
  • News anchors - instead of moderating discussions, inviting views - dominate discussions, out-shout panellists. Welcome to the world of high decibel news content.
  • There is day-to-day reportage on celebrities, their whereabouts, who fought with who. As if that was not enough, even the ups and downs of Reality TV shows are regularly covered.
  • There is even something called 'fake / made up' news :) - tune into to India TV that feeds you with breaking news stories like 'end of the world in year 20xx, gateway to heaven' - I am yet to make up my mind whether to call it news or entertainment or the workings of some lunatic mind.
  • Most news programing now have regular ad breaks. Recently, I happened to catch Vinod Dua anchoring a news show and leaving the audience with his favourite bollywood track to listen to - bang in the middle of news!

This conversation between a colleague and his son sums it up quite well...

Colleague - trying to catch up with the happenings of the day, Son - Papa what is this that you are watching. Colleague- This is the news beta. They show you what is happening in the world
Son - Then why are they fighting and shouting so much?


gulnaz said...

you are absolutely right! most of the news is merely third rate entertainment!

pleasure to stumble across your blog,came via twitter.

ahmad raza said...

reached here through twitter where shekhar kapur called it interesting! he's seldom wrong!!

the thing that baffles me here in this whole "new news" industry is:
if we are not watching it, why are they showing it? if there is so much discontent abt what is thrown at us, then why is it thrown at us?
this "garbage eating" in India is also new. once we were very smart people who had their own literatures alongside grecko-romans and middle easterners.
where is it all going wrong?

reshma said...

Gulnaz thanks for stopping by - 'third rate' is relative to the person watching it...entertainment it is!

Ahmad - 'we' (as in you and I) are not watching it, but junta watches such content. there was a recent study done by another research agency that showed the primary viewer of the hindi news channels is the 'housewife' - infact news channels compete with the GEC (general entertainment channels) for TRPs. There is still smart literature around - its a matter of tuning into the right frequency

Anonymous said...

now a days its not news we listen to but opinions.. its biased... nw a days the public dont get a chance to form their opinions... they present news/opinions and force it on the channel just gives direct news/information... they have to twist and turn it 2 create a scandal... and how do all these channels say we are breaking the news first when all of them are giving us the same news togethr...even their programmes are arranged in such away tht if its sport news on one then all rest will have the same...
they no longer want 2 create awareness just TRP's

They have programmes on which actor went wher, with whom...blah blah... but nothing on the millennium developmnt goals.... oh i forgot thts nt gnna get them TRP.....

Lipi said...

Hi Reshma,

Really interesting read.. reached here reading about qualitative research..

I like the part where you said people remembered the doordarshan days like nostalgia...

As a kid i remember seeing "Bharat ki khoj", surabhi, news, Byomkesh bakshi etc etc... I guess we are lucky to be born in 80's... atleast we did not miss the end of the classic times. Never felt like being subjected to garbage at that time mostly because we had limited access to entertainment. Today entertainment is on the go so much so that it is needed 24*7 and India TV and the likes of it has taken complete advantage of this need.

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