Evolution of the Indian News Channels – From half an hour to 24 hours on Television!


The backdrop

The changing trends have been quite evident on the television with the 24-hours news channels. Apparently, this was not the case earlier. I have heard from my elders that they showed a bit of news in the theatres before movies in olden times (before television became common in households). We had news headlines read out during morning assembly in school during the 90s. I remember back in the day, Aajtak was a TV show on DD channel for half an hour telecasted at 10 pm. Within half an hour they covered all the relevant news we needed to know… maybe, maybe not! But my dad made it a point to watch it daily to know what all happened in the day as that was the fastest medium of news back then. The only other option was to wait for a newspaper the next morning to know the happenings of the country and across the globe. Slowly the television industry started booming from fiction shows telecasted once in a week to daily soaps on air from Monday to Thursday. Slots for primetime were allotted to those with higher TRPs. TRP was a new word for us back then making it clearer how the TV industry worked. With that people envisioned news as a hot product to sell and thus several 24-hour news channels were launched…

Evolved & Ruined!

I remember when it first started we wondered how useful it would be… we would be well-informed about the happenings in real time and could see live videos and detailed footages. They could bring about a revolution with that power showing what all was actually happening in the country. A video footage would be more reliable than a written article, right? But here came the problem… supply exceeded the demand and in order to outbreak competition, anything and everything were tried. We have witnessed fake ghost stories, black magic and babagiri promoted, communal disharmony created and what not. Imagine a news channel slot for saas-bahu daily soaps’ stories… they show you what all happened in the recent episodes, and I thought to myself, ‘is that supposed to be news by any chance?’ Ironically, a ‘fiction show’ plot is reported on a news channel. You would also find astrology and daily prediction shows, how is that news? Baba’s give tips to resolve your life problems based on your birth details which are shown on a news channel… and the worst solution ever heard is ‘Hari chutney ke saath samosa khalo, kripa aani shuru ho jayegi’. Rather than reporting news, they started creating news and also reported things which cannot be termed as news just to keep you engaged in watching their channel.

The Donkey business…

We have almost 20 in Hindi and 20 in English language channels for news that are reporting unwanted stuff most of the time. Well, they report a prominent minister taking the name of a donkey during election wars as news… although it is not something required to be urgently known to the public but yet we can categorize it as news but what happens later is that we have an exclusive one-hour debate with 8 spokespersons, some defending the act and some condemning it. I guess even the donkey doesn’t care that much… That’s not enough; they telecast a ‘Hasya Kavi Samelan’ giving satirical poetry on Indian politics with a donkey as the centre. That reminds me, we have also witnessed comedy shows and animated gags on our news channels, ever seen that on international news? And every channel has adverts going with the news; those six-pointers come to the screen with a Baba Ramdev photo at a corner promoting Patanjali every time. You can see weather forecast with a Cement company truck moving on India’s map so that they earn an extra buck out of those promotions… It’s all business after all.

The circus is heavily crowded during elections, they give exit polls (guesstimates of seats) and on actual results, they show you a comparison with other channels to prove how reliable their sources were. They also face off-seasons like other businesses do where there is nothing big happening on the national or international front, so we focus on local happenings now. You will be shown a video of a wife hitting her drunk husband with a broom… apparently, a shaky video someone uploaded on youtube for fun becomes a news item on a national news channel. And the day ends with late-night teleshopping ads, the worst ones where you see junior artists pretending as businessmen, Jyotish, diabetics and what not.

Be the actual fourth pillar of Democracy and get more viewers!

We understand that it is difficult to survive in the competition and people associated are working hard to be the best but media holds the responsibility of reporting facts which lead to a perception in common people’s mind. You can make it or break it; a hero becomes a villain and vice-versa if reported wrongly. With such an amazing opportunity to inform & educate people about serious topics like corruptions, donations, reservations, etc. which can bring a change in the society should be the topic than Jyotish babas and daily soap plots. I am sure truth & logic sells more than senseless lies even today!

Jai Hind.

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