Prof. Rahul Gupta Choudhury
Specialization : Marketing, Strategy and General Management

According to Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), approximately 197 million homes in India are connected to TV currently. That means 66% or two-thirds of India are consumers of TV shows almost on a daily basis. That is the good news. However, if you dig deeper, you will notice that there are almost 900 TV channels catering to this TV viewing public. In 2019, each household watched TV for more than 5 (five) hours each day and about 222 million individuals tuned in to their TV sets. Each individual, on an average, watched TV for almost 4 (four) hours each day. About 75% of the TV viewing time goes into movies and general entertainment. So, this is an enormous captive audience waiting to be influenced by the medium – and, available for anybody interested in doing so. It is estimated that in 2019, there were more than 750 million viewers watching TV shows per week in India. The benefits of this large consumer base are, however, not distributed evenly. There has been a steady continuous rise in demand of vernacular language TV shows including Hindi. On the other hand, many English language TV channels are closing or are on the verge of closing shop. The condition of English language TV news channels are even worse. All English language TV news channels put together cater to less than 1 (one) percent of India’s population. That is a tiny niche to play with and the presence of so many English language news channels has only bred unhealthy competition in the industry. The competitive pressures in the industry to survive has kind of forced some or many of these channels to resort to unethical practices. In an era when consumer is the king, the business of dissemination of news is getting closer and closer to entertainment and plain drama. Ordinary events are being sensationalized and presented in a high decibel dramatized fashion – very often blown beyond all proportions. While media claims to uphold citizen rights in a democratic country, the dichotomy is that they are the ones taking the lead in crushing the rights of individuals in many cases. Many erudite individuals are of the opinion that it is the media themselves which are ushering in and showing the way for the phenomenon of mobocracy to grow and prosper in our democratic polity. The media is likely to argue that the reach and impact of English language TV news channels in India are miniscule, but the worry is that this might very adversely affect the thought processes of a very vulnerable section of the society – i.e., the 22 – 40-year-old urban middle class educated youth population of India. This is because this demographic group are the primary consumers of news presented in English channels in TV. The younger generation will quite obviously look for digital outlets which will allow them to personalize their consumption and will quite definitely move away from this mass marketed “soap news” dished out by the English TV news channels. So, the future of these English language TV news channels is not at all bright, for sure. However, the prejudiced outlets are doing a great deal of damage to the social fabric of the entire country. Their hate messages are only helping to drive fissures among various sorts of communities – political, social, religious, linguistic, geographical, and economic – in our diverse country. The motivation behind these kinds of nefarious activities is not clear. Is it that these channels think that they are very powerful entities who can guide and change the course of this country? Do the anchors of these channels also think in a similar manner? The channels bring in the so-called panelists who are competing to outdo each other in the shouting game and are just clones of the views aired by these anchors. Any dissent by any of the panelists are just cut down – very often, with accompaniment of atrocious behaviour and language used by this “omnipotent” anchors. The question before the society now therefore is whether these channels and their stakeholders will still be allowed to run amok in this fashion, or some norms and policies and basic ethical principles should be put in place for these entities. This is not a suggestion for control of media. The government should not get into this. However, just like FB, a parliamentary committee should be formed to evaluate and assess this situation. If required, help from the Supreme Court or the relevant High Courts may also be sought. The norms may be arrived at after a thorough investigation of the news readers as well as their promoters. Ultimately, news must be delivered as news – factual and unbiased – and not as drama (however much the viewers may want it). Each channel may have some other program where they may be allowed to present their perspective of the situation or the event. News cannot be opinions. News cannot also be analysis portrayed from a single perspective. Pure speculation, direct and/or indirect, is an absolute no-no. Vitiating the entire environment of the country by a few individuals, under the garb of serving the society, should not be allowed to go on like this anymore. It is high time that consumers demand high quality and unbiased pure news from these channels. If they are unable to provide that which should be their prime responsibility, the exit door should be clearly shown to them at the earliest.