In a rare signed piece, India TV Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma has suggested a rethink on elitist, insensitive and hypocritical judgements against television news channels. The signed piece will appear in the FICCI-FRAMES publication which has been produced by indiantelevision.com. FICCI-FRAMES kicks off at Mumbai on March 25, 2008 and Mr Sharma will be a key speaker there. The text of the piece is reproduced below --
The Pot and The Kettle
By Rajat Sharma
When my friend Amit Mitra invited me to speak at FICCI-FRAMES on, "Is News Entertainment: changing face of television news in India," I hoped that he will have a similar session for the print media.
I was wrong!
Perhaps, FICCI doesn't see the need to put our friends in the print industry in the dock. Yet, it sees merit in putting together four founders and news managers of India's top TV channels, on Tuesday, to defend ourselves and our editorial credentials.
As I prepare myself for the challenge of accepting Amit's invitation, there is little left to my imagination on what FICCI thinks of me and my tribe of television journalists (read Hindi television journalists).
The inaugural brochure is judgemental! In the three sentences introducing our session, the brochure says "The very concept of news delivery and content has changed to the extent that there is now a thin line between news and entertainment channels."
What thin line, how thin, and defined by whom hasn't exactly been left to our collective imaginations: The next and final line of the brochure promises that "this session will discuss the present scenario of `news' and future trends."
The use of single inverted commas to describe TV news, tells me what FICCI thinks of TV news (read Hindi TV news)!
For me, the inverted commas isn't just about two punctuation marks. It represents an elitist mindset and insensitivity to the information needs of millions of Indians.
In fact, let me go beyond elitism and insensitivity. Let me add a third dimension, ie, hypocrisy.
A brief comment on all three--
First, I disagree with the elitist mindset of describing news on (Hindi) TV channels in single inverted commas, because it tells me that only a few hundred intellectuals (influenced by print publications, columnists and niche channels in our country) know what really news is.
Next, I talk of insensitivity because intellectuals who rue over the state of news channels forget the niche audiences that they serve (usually in thousands and at the most of a few lakhs) against the several millions of that a top Hindi television news channel like India TV does.
Finally, the hypocrisy behind the single inverted commas hurts, when I consider the one hour that I spend in the morning reading the most respected dailies and news weeklies in our country. Let me rest my case with a recent example. Printed below a long, self-righteous news story on democratic rights of Tibetans was this unprintable sms joke asking why women like gold more than they like boys! (The reply said something about `the number of carrots' that gold has…in my view so repulsive that it spoilt my morning). Yet, no one has called this respected newspaper a `news'paper!?
It's time some of us did. Between now and the next FICCI-FRAMES, I suggest that those who punctuate the word news on (Hindi) TV channels in single inverted commas should do the same to our top `news' magazines who place lurid sex surveys on their covers. These lovers of single inverted commas should question lewd stills of Paris Hilton's lip locks on the colour pages of our important newspapers. Not to mention instructive details of Ms Hilton's sexual preferences, usually with pointers on Page 1. How about questioning the acres on `news' space devoted to Pam Anderson, with no rationale to support the flesh? What of Bipasha Basu longingly lying over her beau on the covers of our most venerated film magazine, helpfully advertised in the sister newspaper?
Suffice to say that unlike our friends in the print, Hindi television news informs, as per TAM's representative sample of what ordinary people want to know; and in the idiom of the news consumer, without the elitism, the insensitivity and the hypocrisy.
The kettle doesn't call the pot black. Should the pot do the same? We'll see next year. Right, Amit?
About Rajat Sharma and Independent News Service Private Limited (INS):
Rajat Sharma is Chairman of Independent News Service (INS) and Editor-in-Chief of India TV. INS was co-founded by Mr Sharma and Ritu Dhawan in 1998. Mr Sharma edited important publications before entering television in 1992 with the iconic ‘Aap Ki Adalat' and India's first private news bulletin.
With 20 years of work behind her, Ms Dhawan is one of India's senior most television producers.
INS launched India TV in August 2004. Today it has a talent pool of 400+ personnel. As per TAM, India TV is a leader, on the Elite Panel and in the C&S Hindi news market in terms of shares, TVRs, time spends and audience reverts.
In March last year Fuse+ Media, an entity of ComVentures, a leading Silicon Valley-based venture capital and private equity group with over $1.5 billion of assets under management, had placed an equivalent of Rs 50.9 crore of FDI in INS for a 19.17 per cent stake, taking INS's enterprise value to Rs 270 crore. Earlier this year, after another strategic investment, INS's enterprise value stood at Rs 500 crore.
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