Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The "Business" of News

I was born in the early 80s. As a child or maybe as a teenager, my first dose of international news was in the form of a TV program on Doordarshan by Prannoy Roy’s The World This Week. I remember I used to wait eagerly for the weekly program even though it used to air pretty late around 9.30 or 10 in the night. In those times, I think this was the only source of world news (and in English) for me apart from the one page international in The Hindustan Times or Times of India newspapers. I used to be utterly impressed by the news and the way it was presented. It always had the most interesting and knowledgeable pieces of information of the world which I hardly knew anything about. It used to leave me fascinated about the world which existed beyond my surroundings and everyday life in India.      

I think it was a time of purist television for me. Simple, thought provoking and truly entertaining programs aired on television, courtesy the Doordarshan. Who can forget Master Haveliram of Buniyaad, Basesar Ram, Nanhe, Chutki of Nukkad, comedy of Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, the suspense and thrill of Byomkesh Bakshi and Karamchand, the Quiz Show by Siddarth Basu etc. Okay, so before I get lost in the nostalgia of the yesteryears, let me fast forward to the current times. The simplicity and modesty of the Doordarshan was literally stripped and raped by cable/satellite TV. Doordarshan got lost in the dark somewhere and private channels popped up by dozens. I remember when we first got a cable connection, we had around 15-16 channels, maybe even less. Today, we have more TV channels than a TV actually supports. Of course, to some extent it brought us close to the outside world. We started understanding the bigger picture. But I am not sure whether the tradeoffs were balanced enough.

Coming back to where I started, i.e. world news on TV. Now, either the world was a relatively better place a couple of decades back or either the news reporting has changed over all these years. The reason I feel this is because these days all I see is depressing and violent news on TV. Of course there were not so very happy moments around the world being presented by Prannoy Roy back then but in half an hour or so of news, their impact were not so significant. But at the same time we were rightly made aware of what was happening. All this changed over the years. Talking first about the news channels in India, I feel that except a couple of them, most of them are total trash and should be banned asap. They are nothing but a bunch of people trying to tantalize and sensationalize normal things happening around us. And on top of that I sometimes wonder that have we become so dumb to see news like Ravan’s grave found in Sri Lanka or a hill in the shape of Nandi, the bull. How is it possible for such channels to survive if there were no viewers? This simply means that the supply exists because there is a demand. Do we really need such repetitive feed of titillating news? Even the more decent ones trying to deliver sensible news are made to bow to such cheap and low levels in order to compete. These relatively better English speaking but Indian news channels hardly focus on international news. When I visit India these days, sometimes I feel totally cut off from the world if I don’t connect online or see BBC or CNN on TV. The expansion of the news “business” has gone wrong somewhere and at the same time the taste of its viewers.

Talking about major international news providers like BBC or CNN who offer much less biased information are reasonably good but still not perfect. One must be open to read from different resources to get a fair piece of news. But the point I am trying to make is that has the world changed so much in just a couple of decades that there is hardly any positive news available anymore? Pick up any news website and check its front page for the last 7 days. I am sure that 99% of it would be negative and depressing news. So, has the world changed itself and is really deteriorating itself or are the news people changed their style of reporting? Does it really help knowing every bit of detail around you? Should we really be so concerned about things which are beyond our controls? Should we really get influenced by it? Is the society becoming too voyeuristic in nature? Have we started mixing entertainment with things which are more serious in nature? There are hell lot of questions popping in my head right now and I am still trying to find my answers.  


Neha said...

I could write a thesis on this issue. Being a journo I have seen the transformation of news from informing viewers to becoming infotainment. Most channels just sell any trash to get higher TRPs. Its really sad.

The reason they do it is because people watch it. And so they sell it. It's a pretty vicious cycle. And I am not sure if any channel has the guts to break it because the marketing dept. would reign hell on the editors if the TRPs lower and profits sink.

P.S: I used to love watching Byomkesh Bakshi as a kid :) said...

oh woww .. a journo on my blog ... cool ... if there was any other profession I would have got into, it would have been journalism or archeology
rightly said, the vicious circle of continuous demand and supply :( I just feel that the viewers should get more responsible to break that cycle
Byomkesh was a superstar :) the thrill of predicting what would happen next was amazing :)

Neha said...

You know they are now doing re-runs of Byomkesh Bakshi on one of the DD channels!