The News Television debate – Dissecting the English rat race

It’s literally Breaking News, everywhere and almost everytime!!! And it comes bundled the exact same way – flashy headlines, fiery graphics, loud guests and even louder anchors. Add to that the tag of being biased and compromised.

News channels today are no longer seen as neutral bodies. Sides seem to have clearly been taken, not just by channels but also by the viewers. Ironically, the English news genre which has the least viewership of all is often being held responsible for all that is wrong with TV journalism today. Right from the hound dog style coverage of news to the biased reporting by a few, the criticism today covers the entire clan who unfortunately have succumbed to the herd mentality in this TRP driven business.

Piplsay dived headfirst into this melee to find out what Indians think about the state of TV journalism today, especially the English genre and got some interesting insights from the over 1 lakh responses we received.

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Who’s the best?

While the relatively calmer NDTV is the most watched news channel across all four regions, Republic TV -for all their claims about maximum viewership surprisingly comes in the bottom three. For Times Now though, Goswami’s exit from the channel last year doesn’t seem to have dented its viewership as was largely feared.

Despite this, Arnab Goswami has a reason to smile. He is the most preferred English news anchor for a majority of the respondents, beating his former colleague and India Today’s Rajdeep Sardesai by a decent margin

The firebrand anchor famous for thundering on behalf of the nation has redefined the concept of prime time debate in India. One where he is often heard accusing, reprimanding and demanding answers from the high and mighty. His unique style which has resulted in several jokes and memes have only added to his popularity or notoriety, whichever way one may see it.

Anchors, especially the ones doing prime-time debates have a huge responsibility as they eventually become the face of the channel.

Yet, the fact that close to 60% respondents prefer news content and quality over brand power shows that hype and theatrics are not really necessary to pull in the crowd

The ‘paid media’ debate

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We are living in times where news content is either defined as toeing the government line or being critical of it. Cushioning this further are the prime time debates which bring together political parties to discuss the most important developments of the day.

NDTV, despite the endorsement, gets the maximum votes for the most biased prime-time debates. The channel has been a staunch critic of the current regime, having invited raids and blackout in what has been often described as a case of government overreach. Republic TV, on the other hand, figures low despite being repeatedly described as a government mouthpiece.

The increasing bias, noise levels and browbeating on news channels is slowly weaning away people from the 27 by 7 news format. Still, there is an equal number which continues to watch the news, shaping their opinion as well as others based on what they see and hear. This can be a frightening proposition especially if one is constantly fed a single narrative. The fact that more than 60% people feel the need for an unbiased news source only confirms this growing trend.

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We are living in times of information overload and fake news is a new reality. Which is why there is an increasing demand for a voice that can show both sides of the coin. Already there is a simmering debate within the media about the lines that have been crossed and the desperate need to go back to their original form.

When, how and if that will happen is still a matter a debate. But one thing is for certain.. in today’s changing times’ opinions do matter. But then, so do their disposition.

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