World Television Day was celebrated on November 21, 2017. The purpose of World Television Day under the age is of United Nations Every Year is the day that recognizes that television plays a major role in presenting different issues that affect people. In India the Government broadcaster “ Doordarshan” was founded in the year 1959 with the objective to “ Inform, Entertain and Empower”. The first News bulletin was of 5 minute duration and started in the year 1965. The major Metropolitan cities had Television broadcast in the year 1975 and in the offering News was an important one. Doordarshan and its news presentation was designed to disseminate the government policies, projects and information of the achievement of the Government in Office.
A departure from News presentation and treatment from that of Doordarshan was seen in Tamil space with Sun TV broadcasting News in its GEC channel thrice a day in 1996. During the same period most of the GEC channels in Tamil Language also had News as one of the offerings in the channel.
The News Bulletins on Sun TV were claimed to be one of the reasons for the change of guard in Tamil Nadu Government in 1996. Besides the News Bulletins on week days, Sun TV also offered Current Affairs program “ Nerukku Ner” which is a one to one interview with political personalities in the week end and went on to become a success. As the News Bulletins went on to become popular, it became a face of Sun TV. These well produced News Bulletins were produced in the late afternoons and were telecast from broadcast centers overseas.
With the advent of VSNL and broadcast facility being made available through it with the overseas broadcasting centers, deferred live broadcast of News became a feasibility. There were interesting accounts of experience in recording the news and rushing it to VSNL transmission centers in busy Chennai traffic by Tamil TV broadcasters. However, this was a period were the transition from the orthodox print media to vibrant visual media took place. Everyday was learning and enrichment.
It took nearly 4 years to see a 24 X 7 News Channel to come to existence from the time the private TV channels in Tamil language started broadcasting News and Current affairs programs. Even TV channels like Vijay TV who did not have News as part of the offering were offering “Tamizha, Tamizha”, “ Muthal Pirathi” as produced Current affairs program as breakfast offering. One should also make a particular reference to “Makkal Yaar Pakkam”, a political review program during the 2004 Parliamentary elections which saw Mr. Gopinath, a now famous TV Anchor steering the program, thus a star was born. These programs had all the ingredients of the today’s 24 X7 News channels with News, Current Affairs, Opinions, Views of the News Makers and infotainment segments.
These News bulletins, News based programs, Current Affair and Debates provided much wanted branding opportunities for the advertisers. There were several segment branding opportunities roped in additional revenue to these channels as there were no separate budget was available for the News Genre in Tamil by the advertisers.
When the elections came, these GEC channels and the News Channels had programs running upto the polling and the live broadcast of results and analysis with the limited resources available. Raj TV broadcast live telecast of results from their overseas broadcast center at Manila for the first time. It was interesting to note that Vijay TV which was seen only as a GEC channel and much behind the leader in ratings saw being the leader in the live telecast of election results across time bands and across Tamil Channels.
It was Sun News which became the pioneer in 24 X 7 News Channels as its parent Sun TV in the GEC genre. This was followed by Raj News and many more News Channels followed and during the same time with every new GEC being launched there were News Content as part of the offering.
Year 2011 was a watershed year for Tamil News Channels. This year saw a change of guard in the Government with Ms. Jayalalitha coming to power and Arasu Cable being launched in a big way. This saw the pay channel and perceived to be seen opposition voice Sun News was not made available in most of the analog network across Tamil Nadu and along with it came the launch of Puthiya Thalaimurai, a 24 X 7 Tamil News Channel. This channel found an immediate placement in Arasu Cable Network. Then to the entry barrier was too high for any channel in Tamil Nadu, more particularly News Channels which had wafer thin margins and took a very long time to break even. With placement across the state and a significantly differentiated content which was seen as un biased and neutral found acceptance amongst the Tamil audience.
Encouraged by the success of Puthiya Thalaimurai in reaching the masses and changed distribution scenario in the state, many an entrants ventured into Tamil News space. Significant one among them being “Thanthi TV” which had been reluctant to get into television base despite its legacy as a Print Media House for many years. Thanthi TV went into acquisition mode and acquire NDTV- Hindu, which was to be a joint venture Metro Centric News Channel of the Media giants of NDTV and The Hindu. Thanthi TV transformed itself into a 24 X7 Tamil Language News Channel and grew in strength giving a tough competition to Puthiya Thalaimurai which had a free run till 2012.
The program content of Puthiya Thalaimurai and Thanthi TV were distinctively different and Thanthi TV leveraged on its parent’s legacy in News space. This period saw the News Channels having identifiable faces for themselves. Thanthi TV put all the might of its parent “ Daily Thanthi”, the most popular morning news paper in Tamil Language in promoting the key Anchors and key programs of the Channel in its editions. The advertisement mileage was impossible for any channel to have matched in financial terms. Thus Thanthi TV established its position in the top of the chart of viewership. It would be unfair if ne does not acknowledge the pivotal role the advertisement on Daily Thanthi played irrespective of the god quality of content it played on the channel.
The format of these two channels are not very different from the National TV format with News being played out through the day and distinctive breakfast bands and evening prime time debates. Puthiya Thalaimurai had to its credit “ Nerpada Pesu” and Thanthi TV had “ Aayutha Ezhuthu” , two debate programs to which the News makers, opinion builders and the politicians vied to be part of.
Around the same time a differentiated Tamil News Channel was launched in the name and style “ Polimer News”. It had shed all the weight of opinion forums, debate shows and any form of programs and presented vanilla news in a simple language and straight forward manner without beating around the bush. The importance and stress was made on giving the news as it happens in a swift manner and without factual errors and devoid of opinions as would normally come in many news based programs and debates. This found immense reception with the discerning viewer who have by this time tired of listening to views and opinions of handful of participants of debate in all the News Channels.
The viewer reception was reflected in the growing viewership and being in the top of the chart without much challenge in a short span of time and holding on to it for more than 18 months.
However, each channel needed a major crisis or an event to bring out their best in the open. If it was December 2015 Floods at Chennai was for “ Polimer News”, it was 2016 “Jallikattu” for News 7 Tamil. During “Jallikattu” all the channels played up the Tamil sentiment and the mammoth success of the movement could be attributed to the extensive Media coverage by the Tamil News Channels. Followed quickly was the unfortunate protracted sickness of Ms. Jayalalitha and her death. Tamil News Channels competed with each other to bring information as swiftly as possible with continuous “ Breaking News” which has become the wake up alarm for the Tamil population.
The same trend continues until this day with political uncertainties and factional feud among the ruling party. Not an hour passes without “ Breaking News”. The genre GRP was was 150 and below before the advent of proliferating News Channels and now the genre GRP is above 250+ at any given week. Earlier the GRP of News Bulletins on Sun TV will be equal to the genre GRP or even at times more so also the proportionate revenue. There are instances of Tamil News Channels garnering GRP’s nearing 100 and above.
However, the interesting point to note and ponder is that the content contribution is in favor of News and they deliver the most. The proportionate contribution of the debates and programs on the News Channels have not increased or improved. Basing on this the free run of Polimer News as the number one channel has to be appreciated. With all the channels vying for the same celebrity or the News Maker for interview in any given week has started becoming a tiring experience for the viewer as the interviewee has nothing new to say in subsequent interviews from the first.
Unlike the Publishers of the Print, the Owners of the Tamil News Channel are always seen as persons with a leaning to one political ideology or the other. Even the so called “neutral” channels provide balanced news of getting the view point of the differing parties and do not portray what is the “right” news. Unlike the National Television, the Tamil language News Channels are openly held by parties with Political interest and such TV channels function as party organ for propaganda. There is no subtlety to this and all is in the open.
The active Social Media of Tamil Diaspora give enough and more fodder to the hunger of the main stream Tamil TV News Channels and at times even act as active competitor. There is proliferation of Social Media “ Whatsapp Journalists” and the news dished out by them too are equally consumed by the Tamil News television Channels akin to the subscribed news feeds. Sometimes even very old video also get to be published without verification and has started to become a common thing. There are channels which have separate team to source video and news from social media to be broadcast on the main stream news channels.
In this mad rush the sufferer is true and good journalism. The basic tenets of Journalism of inform, entertain and empower is lost. Rarely verify and publish is followed. In depth understanding and analysis have taken a toll as the reporters are always stressed to respond and report on the breaking news whether they have expertise in the subject or not. More often than not, unverified news appear on the screens only to be followed by the competing channel to keep pace in the race to give “ first” rather than “ right” news. It will appear as comedy if I were to mention that the CM of the state going to Secretariat is a “ Breaking News” and not by one but all Tamil News Channel.
Each of the News Channels are playing to their strength. Some rely on fast and simple news, some on detailed crime reporting and fast news, some rely on Live Broadcasts and debates and some excel in performance in reporting major crisis and events. The commonality in all has become the fast paced news in their bulletins and some bulletins themselves are express in nature. The breakfast shows, daily debates and weekly specials distinguish one from the other in a crowded Tamil News market.
In a nascent industry, the qualified and quality manpower is in constant demand. Hence, the attrition is also high. The cost of Man Power has become highly inflated and poaching has become the order of the day. No Channel give a damn about the investment gone in developing an Anchor or any other resource by the fellow channels. Neither the culture of following ethics of employment is encouraged during shift of employment. A news reporter/ anchor found in “A” channel makes an appearance on “B” channel in a very short span of time to make an entry into “ C” channel in a short while. This makes most of the Tamil News Channels as “me too” channels as there is no distinction either in content or in the presenter. Many a time the viewer is confused which channel he/she is watching. It is an important area where the Promoters of the Tamil News Channels should ponder and create through sincere attempts “Face of the Channel”. In this aspect one should congratulate “ Thanthi TV” in their ability to retain the “ Faces of the Channel” and there by further adding to the credibility to the brand. This could become a possibility with the generosity of the parent organization Daily Thanthi providing huge promotions to the Anchors and programs which would have cost a huge financial investment for others.
The size of the Tamil Television News market is approximately Rs. 150 Crores per annum and growing at a lean rate. There are more than 10 Tamil News Channels craving for the advertising pie. The operation cost of the News Channels are not less than 30 Crores per annum. The major portion of the money is spent on distribution and the demand of the MSO’s and the DTH operators are ever increasing. Only less than handful of the channels are getting the revenue to make both ends meet and rest have either to cut costs by opting to have less distribution or spend less on the news gathering that reflect on their viewership. The decision to opt to spend less on the distribution is a double edged sword as the viewership is based on how well the content is distributed. Despite regulations being in place to limit the carriage fee for News Channels, the carriage fee is disproportionate to the revenue potential for News genre. The carriage fee and the costs of distribution has become a deterrent for any serious entrant.
The advertisers going mostly going by the viewership numbers fail to see the qualitative aspects of content in the most important news channels. The absence of milieu understanding often leave the News Channels with qualitative content left in lurch when it comes to garnering advertising revenue. Such Channels suffer the most and unless supported by the Promoters shall have to disappear. Hence the channels do all that they can do to get the numbers that sell, often being blamed of malpractices. It reflects on the quality of the content too.
When Doordarshan was the only source of information from TV, ethical standards were maintained. With the private satellite TV News Channels all and sundry happening walk in as “News”. A medium that impacts the society and life of people are carefree about what is being offered through their medium. Stray incidents become riots, riots become carnage and views of desperation and despondency is hammered hour after hour. They are building a sick society un knowingly. Breaking News is their target that give them the visiting card. News media has become a business and has lost its high ideals.
The responsibility of “ Inform, Entertain and Empower” is only on paper and have eluded reality.
Guest Article Authored by VC Bharati – The Author is a veteran Media Professional in South Market with vast experience in the areas of Creative, Project Designing, Strategy and planning for Channel launch with Sound technical knowledge too etc.. He was associated with many leading Media and Broadcast companies during his Journey of three decades at a senior management level and he was instrumental in launch of leading GECs and News Channels in South Market. He can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The content of the article and opinion reflected are of Author’s and not by tvnews4u.com in any manner.