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The Indian media and its shifting roles

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The Indian media and its shifting roles

With the start of a new year, one hopes Indian television news loses some of its immaturity and grows up. Consumers deserve a more temperate mass media

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right”, said Oprah Winfrey, a famous American media personality. From the new year, the outlook brightens.

Who wants to reflect on the year gone by? Isn’t it a tad needless indulgence? But it is so much fun to gleefully look forward to the new year in a wishful way and with some good measure of inexact clairvoyance and expectations thrown in. Isn’t it? Here is an attempt to do just that while gazing at the media landscape and its shifting shapes in the coming year.

First, here is wishing the television news channels a happy adulthood this year as they turn officially 18 in the year 2018. We hope this year, the Indian television news loses some of its immaturity and silliness and turns itself into a thoughtful and temperate adult for a start!

We also wish that hapless audiences will be spared of the deafening cacophony that emanates from prime time debates in these channels. And rather, viewers will be served a meaningful, learned debate and analysis on burning issues of the day. This is the least the world’s largest democracy and its people deserve and expect.

We hope the assault of mind numbing and blinding graphics on the news channels stops. The news channel screens are shockingly the most overcrowded and slummiest when compared to any other professional international news broadcasters. Their neat and easy professional graphics and presentation is more assuring to the viewers than the motley graphics we see crawling, galloping on our desi news television.

As if this is not enough, the penchant of the news channels to have a dozen panelists pigeon-holed on to a single screen often leaves us blurry and squint-eyed. Do you require a dozen voices cross-cutting each other to lend credibility to the debate?

We also wish that news anchors don’t pretend to be news jockeys. Antics, such as rubbing one’s palms vigorously while opening the news show, to plodding into the show with heavy steps, as if one were entering a Roman Arena for a gladiatorial fight, all borders on the ridiculous.

Theatrics appeal no sane audience and they appear so casual that it starts to become undeserving of the viewers’ attention. We hope news channels would invest in some sensible backdrop and not use staircases and corridors as their prime time news broadcast props. Blindly copying international broadcasters is simply dumb.

We hope the channels stop repeating visuals ad nauseam and not take our brains for a centrifugal spin. A bunch of news visuals are repeatedly played in the loop for so long until it transforms into whole nine yards saree to drape the entire programme.

We also hope that the news channels invest in gathering good quality news visual to narrate the story and junk using phone and skype visuals as a cheaper option.

It is okay to use them if one were to cover some war-torn battlefields. But it is a lazy job not to make any efforts to support a story with a certain degree of professionally shot and good quality news visuals.

And please, could we have news anchor promos slightly more relatable and less filmy at least in 2018? News anchors appear comical when they give us those angular looks in the promos. Some appear permanently agitated while others are dreadful and petrifying. Do we need so much scare quotient going around at least on the part of news anchors?

If television dominates so much of our time, radio unassumingly plays an understated role in the background. Radio, as a medium, was supposed to die when television came on the scene. More than half a century has passed with the advent of the Radio, and it is not just alive but thriving. It has made giant inroads into our urban and rural lives alike.

However, successes shouldn’t be limited to reach and geographic expansion alone. In the Indian scenario, the content too, hopefully, will become broad-based and move away from merely dishing out Bollywood and film-centric shows. We hope the FM radio will bloom further in the country and all contentious issues are sorted out. Let us hope in this year, radio in India offers us a great programming variety, genres and formats, such as radio chat shows, Indian classical music, jazz, children programming and, of course, news.

On the social media front, it appears, the new year is bound to bring much more intense focus and scrutiny on anti-competitive and monopolistic practices of the such platforms. Techno-protests that the world is witnessing may well continue through this year in what could be a struggle for user’s privacy rights, accountability and transparency. Opting out of social media platforms may well become increasingly cool and a happening fad.

Hopefully, this new year, net neutrality proponents prevail and win the battle. The US’ retrograde move on net neutrality sets a bad precedent for the rest of the world. India’s steadfast stand on the issue is commendable. The frontiers of cyberspace should provide equal opportunities and a level-playing field to compete without any form of digital apartheid and discrimination.

We hope Indian e-commerce leaders, who somersaulted in the past proclaiming that websites are passé and it is the age of mobile first, learnt their logic and lessons the hard way. We hope the websites remain an important asset in terms of investment and caters to the vast number of consumers in a market like India which is decidedly hybrid in its media consumption habits and engagement.

We hope in this year we have less annoying and horrendous online advertising experiences, not to mention auto start videos on the webpages will be completely obliterated from the phase of the earth.

A robust growth is being witnessed for online streaming service providers, also called Over The Top platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hot Star. We notice Indians are consuming these platforms in buses, trains, flights and almost everywhere. They are redefining the definition of ‘prime time’ for Indian television audience. Availability of high-speed data and convergence has melted the media and mediums boundaries. The mobile phone seems to have become an omnipotent device.

The consumer will continue to exhibit high degree of delinquency. He/she will engage with all mediums — be it print, radio, television, digital or social, and yet create his/her own unique experience based on convenience, comfort and cost consideration. In an Omni channel world, commerce and content providers will be forced to customise and serve the consumer where he/she wants and at the time he/she desires.

Lastly, we hope podcasts as a medium really takes off in a big way in India, considering the vast potential for storytelling and innovations that exists in this space. 

“I like to watch the news, because I don’t like people very much and when you watch the news ... if you ever had an idea that people were really terrible, you could watch the news and know that you’re right,” said Frank Zappa, American composer, musician, and film director.

(The writer is a communications and management professional with cross-sectoral experience)




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