I remember as a small boy, I used to enjoy watching television. Doordarshan was all we had. Doordarshan was all we needed. I remember the quality of news in those days. A well dressed decent gentleman or lady used to read news. The lady's sweet melancholy voice. The gentleman's deep baritone voice. The flawless language. The news was righteous, just and correct. Events had to 'deserve' to make it to the 9 'o' clock news.
Then suddenly the 'K' onslaught started. These sensational Balaji daily soaps and serials in turn polluted journalism. Aaj tak, IBN7, Headlines Today, India TV, Star News, NDTV and many more dominated the television arena. I am sure no one is happy about the news these channels offer. In fact, one needs special skills to run all this.
I sometimes wonder, why the news channels can’t do what newspapers do. Enlighten people with news. Correct news. Righteous news. News which is not exaggerated. I really don't understand why news channels think that they are quite different from the newspapers?
News channels transmit news continuously, most of which is live. They can immediately grab a couple of people who know nothing of the issue to continue amusing the viewers. They can scream and make their presenters scream. Whereas newspapers have to wait until the next morning. They move slowly. They have to make somebody sit down, analyze the situation and then write a story for the morning edition. They can’t really scream.
In the Doordarshan days, television news indeed operated like newspapers. They used to broadcast verified news. In the sense of not reporting as it is unfolding but after it has completely unfolded. Today the process of unfolding is everything. News is no different form the live commentary of a cricket match. They call it breaking news. Indeed, today news is fragile. Weak.
The metrics for success or failure of the newspaper is its circulation, whilst TV channels depend completely on TRP ratings. There is one fundamental difference between the two. A newspaper is not evaluated in its parts. How many read a particular editorial, how many read a particular news item and for how long. Meanwhile a TV channel is rated in its half an hour slots. Unlike the newspaper, the TV channel can’t be sure of the viewer. A channel is continuously under pressure to retain a viewer. It has to run. Run continuously to even remain where it is!
Under these circumstances, can we expect media reforms where news channels will re-establish their dependability? Will we have at least one new channel which focuses in justly analyzing an event over breaking insignificant events? Will news channels be able to restore the trust and integrity of their establishment? Will the news channels be able to do what good newspapers still manage to do today?