|NEW DELHI: In
a discussion marked by sharp division on whether
the broadcasting sector needs a regulator
or should be self-regulated, representatives
of various news channels admitted that the
telecast of certain types of news were necessitated
by the Tam ratings and not necessarily by
In the second session of the Indian News
Television Summit organised by Indiantelevision.com
here, the channel representatives debated
on 'News Channels
.the thirst for
News: How is too far?'
Those who took part in the discussion were
BBC World India editor Sanjeev Srivastava,
India TV CEO Chintamani Rao, NDTV managing
editor Dibang, Sahara News head Prabhat
Dabral, TV Today Network editorial director
Q W Naqvi, CNN IBN editor in chief Rajdeep
Sardesai, and Prawin Kumar, who is director
of broadcasting content in the information
and broadcasting ministry.
Initiating the discussion Srivastava asked
if news should be more accountable. While
noting that the broadcasting industry needed
a regulator, he wondered if it should be
an industry regulator or one foisted by
Dabral said he had no doubt that news channels
were going too far and there was need to
manage content. "In the lust to get
eyeballs, we have violated certain norms.
We need to check ourselves before the government
cracks its whip." He said that one
could not always be led by market forces
and there was need to be ruled by one's
conscience. He felt that the industry definitely
needed a regulator. At the same time, he
said the best option would be self-regulation.
Rao, who at the outset pointed out that
he was not a journalist like the others,
said advertisement provided the fodder for
the news channels and therefore programming
had to be such as to attract a viewer to
switch on the channel as that was the only
way to attract good advertising. He said
there was clearly a generation gap as far
as the broadcasting and print media were
concerned, since the latter was still in
many ways linked to the ideals of the freedom
movement. Television on the other hand was
a modern tool. He said the remote control
button was the master as far as television
He denied the charge of being partial and
added that even Doordarshan which was a
public service broadcaster was not impartial.
He said that there was no point in taking
a moral high ground. At the same time, it
was wrong to blame the television media
since it was new and still evolving.
Dibang said there was a need to promote
a scientific temperament and this was the
reason that NDTV had avoided programmes
around crime stories, superstition or sex
shows. He wanted the television broadcaster
to keep his conscience alive and not merely
go by the Tam ratings. This he said was
the force behind NDTV. He criticised other
channels for catering to news that was not
healthy for society.
Naqvi said there was no denying the fact
that the race to get more eyeballs was driving
the news channels to show the kind of stuff
being telecast. But he said there was need
to draw a clear line between hard news channels
and those based on reality-based prograrmmes.
He said it was clear that if he had to choose
between conscience and chasing numbers,
he would go for the latter. He wanted the
broadcasters to be more realistic in understanding
the situation in an era of competition if
one had to remain at the top spot.
Sardesai agreed about the need to define
what constituted hard news channels and
what constituted entertainment news or reality-based
news. At the same time, there was need to
move away from the tyranny of the market
forces. There was no denying the fact that
most channels catered to the lowest common
He said that no meal was complete without
something spicy. But it was unfortunate
that as far news channels went, it was only
the spicy news that was being served as
the main course and this was taking these
channels away from what constituted news
channels. He said that technology was being
used in different ways to expose others.
But he added that it would be erroneous
to say that there had been no progress.
It was necessary to understand that the
private television media had been in existence
only for around twelve years as compared
to newspapers which had been there for more
than one hundred years.
He said that the three Cs were ruling news
channels: crime, cinema and cricket. But
there was need for a fourth C - conscience,
and the big challenge was how this could
be done while fighting the battle for eyeballs
and the tyranny of the market. There was
no doubt that the industry was facing a
crisis that had to be confronted.
He said he was not opposed to a regulator
if it was on the lines of Ofcom in Britain,
and not one imposed by the government.
Kumar reiterated that the government was
not for imposing a regulator, but it was
necessary to realise that news for the sake
of catching eyeballs was not always healthy.
There was nothing wrong if news remained
hard news, he said.