Friday, October 10, 2008

Media Conclave

The Great Indian Media Circus – Just who is watching whom

The discussion starts with Vinay Tewari asking the panelists discussing how much the TV and the newspapers had got it wrong. What followed is relatively reproduced below with some accuracy.

Vinay Tewari: From going from 10 to 180 channels it’s taken 10 years. TV is a 24 x7 medium as opposed to news which gets to go to bed. It’s like an F1 race – and you’re always looking over your shoulder at other channels. Newspapers have a certain level of industry benchmarks and standards because they’ve been around for over 150 years. But there hasn’t been any such thing in television because it’s so new. I have to produce a new edition virtually every hour! And we need to hire people who can take decisions and people who can think laterally and horizontally.

Very senior people are taking decisions in TV who don’t have this horizontal ability – and that is what the big problem is.

Gurcharan Das: I’d like to introduce a dissenting note here. The consumer is not stupid. If someone is doing stupid or making a false move, the remote does the job for the consumer and he never watches the channel again. I think let the hundred flowers bloom - it’s wonderful to see the young people, the body language of a free nation. You get to see this freedom on television and I celebrate this. The industry will destroy the non performers.

VT: That’s actually the note on which we should move on to the next thing. The problem today is that the consumer isn’t necessarily king – and we don’t know if this measurement of TRP is just the right thing to do – or whether it’s being done the right way. (He’s going on and on like a bullet train).

While we do have a remote, today if we find ads in newspapers claiming number 1 or 2, we don’t know what basis the claims are made on!

GD: I remember working as a brand mgr in the US and Nielsen used to measure 60 million homes then.

VT: (interrupts) The complaint to the TRAI is that they should be allowed to improve the technology and...

GD: (again putting CP!): I think the problem is that they want a system that is reflecting the reality.

VT: As an English channel, it worries that no one in the north East or Bihar is measured at all.

GD: I disagree with that – people in Bihar and other places consume toothpaste etc – and we are interested in advertising to them. Bhubaneswar and Patna were very important and solid markets even in their worst times.

The video of Shereen Bhan is shown:

Has sudden rise in the number of news channels degraded the quality of news content?

People are only trying harder to come up with innovation and uniqueness and some way of differentiation. At least in the English news space, the content has improved.....

Pramath Sinha: There’s a lot more pressure to generate revenues – and therefore India has become an advertising supported market – which is a numbers game. So I can’t just say I’m going to give good content...because people who are buying are actually advertisers. Once the advertiser walks in, ad agency planners will focus on revenues.

Narender Pani: It’s obvious that advertising has taken over – and rural markets have been left out. Maybe this will turn out to be a disadvantage having left out the rural areas.

GD: My column goes into 8 regional newspapers – and I find that there is a lot of rural readership.

NP: IF we take what happens to Vijay Times – it was the no 2 paper in the state – and its rural branches were closed down.

Raju Narisetti: the fundamental thing is that a newspaper that actually costs us Rs 8.5 to turn out is sold at just Rs. 2. In other countries, horrible papers are sold for the equivalent of Rs. 10. Thus we have degraded ourselves in the eyes of the audience – just as much as the cup of coffee costs in Delhi.

The principle of competition doesn’t kick in because papers like the Statesman are still selling 5000 copies in Calcutta whereas it should have been long dead.

VT: There’s a controversy that a channel like India TV which hardly anyone watches is at the top of TRP ratings, and something like NDTV India is at no. 6. I’ve seen things like “Lift mein Bhoot”, 2 hr shows on the reconstruction of skull and bones in a graveyard – and that particular 2.5 hrs gave them the highest ratings!!!! All this at a time when parliament was discussing the nuclear deal. (His blackberry is buzzing and this is killing the mike system – very very painful indeed J)

GD: just shows that this particular group is not representative and there are all sorts of people in the world.

(Audience: But does that classify as news on a news channel?)

VT: I don’t think it should. But the concept of news has changed. Everything catching attention is now defined as news.

GD: Media looks to people, and also influences people. Bollywood is a very good example of this. One day there was a thaw in the relations between Israel and Palestine. The newscaster on ZTV said – “Aaj middle east mein peace ho gayi” She used 3 words of Hindi and 3 words of Hindi – if this had happened in 1990 DD, she would’ve been sacked. What’s happening is that the media is reflecting the liberalisation of the young person’s mind in our country. Now we call it hinglish because there are really 2 trends. I prefer to call it English with an I because it’s happening at a regional level.

Whether it’s advertising or any area, you cannot be a copy writer and know only English. Even in our childhood we mixed words and language – but it was the lower class trying to mix with the middle class. But now it’s become a fashionable language. We’re doing something like Urdu was created. To me, it is a media interaction where media is deciding the language we speak...

NP: I agree with that. Today you’re trying to influence the viewer by speaking his language. I don’t have to accept any standards – I can just go by what runs in society.

GD: But that's the down side of democracy. Because of that you have to reflect the will of the people, and you have to accept that people are not fools. WSJ is a terrific example of how well things are written.

RN: The good news is that the balance of power is shifting to all of you. In the next few years the audience is going to get more power and that will hopefully rectify the situation. The whole industry is maturing and this is just a changing phase.

VT: There are 2 things in this country no one understands - one is the media and other is Duckworth Lewis.....For e.g. when Ranbir Kapoor’s driver had an accident - they ran it for 15 mins saying that this popular guy must have had an accident or something.

Moves on to Q&A before ending...

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