The country is under lockdown for COVID 19, it been 2 weeks now, with so much information in social media platforms, WhatsApp floating around, some fake, some rumors what does the common man believe in. The pandemic has forced upon a lot of changes in the consumption behaviour of the Indian TV viewing audience. According to BARC India’s viewership data for week 12, News channels have seen tremendous growth both in average impressions and reach, that too on a week-on-week basis.
MediaNews4U spoke to Karan Abhishek Singh, CEO – Languages, Network 18 on how the regional channels have geared up for this lockdown.
As head of the languages cluster, how are you strategizing news during this period of COVID 19 and lockdown?
We had a business continuity plan in place and we are adhering to it in real-time because of which our teams have been able to bring timely & relevant news to our audiences. Of course, the focus has been on news that our viewers will find useful and will keep them updated on the developments around them during the pandemic. We ensure that we provide a balanced & fair view without creating panic through our news bulletins. The aim is to cut out fake news and present the reality that exists in reach of the regions we cater to. We also ensure that we highlight positive stories and the herculean efforts by the front line workers in this health scare. All this is being achieved with a tight ship, ensuring our reporters are not in harm’s way and we respect the use of minimal resources paying respect to social distancing & lockdown that is currently in place. Needless to say, safety of our people is our top priority while delivering and keeping our viewers informed.
How are you seeing advertisers response towards the news genre as per the latest BARC-Nielsen report many women are also watching the news?
The recent BARC reports are showing that more women are tuning in, many women are watching the news as it is being shown. This indicates the reality of the Indian household, which is a single TV household. The current pandemic is a concern of the entire household which has brought the family to the TV Screen and more importantly to the news genre. With this in perspective, the FMCG category is showing interest with BARC reports showing a spike in FMCG & F&B categories, advertisers are waking up to a new reality of the News Channels.
In the South Regional news genre how the Network18 channels performing?
The channels have shown growth ahead of the news genre growth. News18 Tamil – Tamil News Genre Reach has increased by 1.42 times, News18 Tamil Nadu reach has increased by 2.23 times.
News18 Kerala – Malayalam News Genre Reach has increased by 1.30 times, News18 Kerala reach has increased by 1.93 times.
News18 Kannada – Kannada News Genre Reach has increased by 1.35 times, News18 Kannada reach has increased by 1.78 times.
(Numbers are of Cumes Reach in week 12. 2+) All news channels are showing exponential growth
Helplines have been opened up by many channels, what about the regional news channels?
All our channels are providing helplines and are ensuring that the viewers have information on their fingertips. Be it counselling through doctors, helping the viewers on separating fact from fiction and allaying general fears of the public. We have special programming line-up wherein shows are providing healthcare, fitness tips so that viewers are equipped to deal with the lockdown.
In today’s time fake news at its peak, how are you eliminating it when reporting?
This is the basic premise of a news channel, that we provide fact-based news which is verified and accurate. We are helping in separating fact from myths and all channels are ensuring we have an interactive program that deals with fake news being generated across social media platforms.
What are the initiatives for employees to ensure safety, as most reporters are on ground as business of gathering news continues?
We have taken a very humane approach in dealing with this global crisis, as people are at the heart of what we do. We have grave concerns for our talent pool and we are committed to stand by them, while ensuring that our responsibility towards our viewers is not compromised. While we have brought about new working protocols and offered flexibility to our employees, our editorial teams are working round the clock and from different locations to stay on top of the Covid-19 story. We are committed to keeping Network18 group Covid-free and providing all assistance to our colleagues and their families. To facilitate that, a Corona Response Team has been created within the organization. Our HR and admin teams have been working tirelessly to keep a tab on all the employees’ health through a unique self-declaring tool called symptom tracker that has been made accessible to all employees.