Indian Media: The Great ‘Kannada” News Channel Circus

So  for  all those who still doubt whether there is space for one more news channel to make it 7 in all apart from the 11 general entertainment Kannada channels,  it is only a matter of time before they are able to get an fitting answer.  This debate has come to the fore with the recent addition of Public TV of former Kannada Prabha and Suvarna Channel’s News Editor H R Ranganth, to the existing stampede of channels.   With one more player in the market   the fight for the top slot in the small screen is going to generate more heat and the clamor for ‘breaking news’ is sure to witness a new high (or is it low?).  One-time firebrand journalist H R Ranganath being at the helm of affairs at Public TV has only added more nosiness and intensity to the existing fight for supremacy among channels for grabbing eyeballs.

Public TV which was went live on February 12, 2012 and 7 channels are now competing and combating with one another to climb to the top with ‘breaking news’ of every possible kind.  Public TV has become the 7th Kannada news channel of the state which will fight it out with Udaya News, T V 9 Karnataka, Suvarna News, Samaya, Kasturi and Janashree News channels, with each one trying new stratagem to garner public attention.

How these channels will conduct themselves in the course of next few years will be crucial.  In the entire fiasco the viewers will have no other option but to keep changing channels in their search for credible or unbiased channel for news and views.  Nevertheless, many regular viewers of the news channels in Karnataka have expressed their views openly in favour of one or other channels.

Suvarna News is the Best channel. TV9 is losing its scene in state..Kumaraswamy’s Kasturi news channel is used only to blame Congress and BJP..says Dinesh Poojary, Kundapura. Dinesh Rao from Mangalore is irritated about the influx of these channels. He says, ” Of course the number of Kannada news channels has increased over the years. But who cares about the quality? In the name of getting viewership all most all channels are reporting only cheap political, crime related or unnecessary items in the name of news. You must have seen many channels are thriving on murder, rape or accident stories…or even daily household quarrels which can happen at any time next to your door!! Also all most all channels use buffoon like specimens, who will be talking nothing other than nonsense! Why cannot these channels, if they do not have their originality just imitate English news channels like NDTV 24X7 or CNN-IBN? Can Burkha Dutt, Prannoy Roy, Vikram Chandra, Rajdeep Sardesai teach these something so called as… journalism??”

R. Bhandarkar from Mangalore opins that the craze for English in these Kannada channels are not lost. ‘Breaking News’, ‘BIG NEWS’, etc . etc. Many a times the ‘breaking news’are restraint drainers. ‘Break or be Broke’ seems to be the motto of these channels nowadays. These news contents in thses ‘breakers’ are often suicides,accidents, killings etc.These have no repititive values but are aired till one is disgusted. ‘BIG NEWS” does not even have that ‘little’ to make one sit up and watch. Many of the programmes, serials etc are ‘direct lifts’ from the more popular Hindi Counterparts. The less said of the ‘humour or comedy programmes’ the better!

“Some channels have alignment with political parties, some are pro congress and some are pro BJP and some are pro communists and some are pro communual. Some channels are there to make money and blackmail by sting operations. The journalistic ethics have been compromised…Forget about the regional channel, even the national and international channels are biased..God alone knows the truth. Anyway journalism has grown very well in India and would continue to grow. But they should work in the best interest of community, peace, nation, truth and act as bonding agent between different faiths and communities…should work as watch dog against social evil practices, alcoholism, corruption, female foeticide, dowry, caste system etc etc”, writes Shahnawaz Kukkikatte from Dubai.

Below are views from the cross section of society from Karnataka:

“i think TV9 is doing good job, many criminals and corrupt officer and politician behind the bar, because of TV9. for simple reason: one week i did not get this cannel i am watching other news channel but their communication is very poor. but TV9 is sound and communication very good. what ever it i like only channel u can give good report like corrupt officer, and corrupt politician. some channels don’t. have power to publish against corrupt politican and police dept. but Tv 9 not worried about all this thinks.”

“Suvarna 24×7 is the best channel, they caught porn MLA’s watching porn Video. TV nine is busy in film news n always busy in telecasting Bhootha n Pretha stories. Busy in slapping it’s on back. TV9 loosing it’s credit after Suvarna news came into  existence. Udaya news pro congres. Janashri pro BJP. Etv is neutral.”

“I have lot of respect towards H R Ranganath who have started Public Tv. I believe he will do justice for the same.I want all culprits to be exposed so that people can understand the double game of all politicians. Best of luck for u and ur future.”

“Most TV channals are behind TRP rating, & are craze with giving foolish news, highlighting rape stories, pralaya & exagarations, slapping their own back as top rated channels. All channels should learn ethics from basic & telecast with sense. The wrong news published or news published in wrong way will be watched by people across state. ‘Ethics first – Publicity last'”

“Tv9 started a very peculiar way of presenting news by pronouncing words split-in at unwanted places and ending sentences with an awkward style. Suvarna started well, but followed TV9 in style. Very irritating way of presentation. One lady news reader (Ms. Soumya?) has developed a peculiar style of ending sentences – very shrill ending deliberately developed(?)to look special???. pronounce the words as it is in its natural kannada way and make hearing the news pleasant. Too garish appearance by some of the anchors is not appreciable.”

“Looks like most of the news channel are funded by political party. New Entry is Public TV looks to be unbaised and appreciate the effort of Ranganath owner. He has a very good knack in explaining in details about any news which attracts. Lets see how Public TV future goes without support of Politicians……..”

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South Indian Media: Why is Sankeshwar interested in Media?

Mahesh Kulkarni writes in an article Sankeshwar to ‘disrupt’ Kannada papers, again in Business Standard

Vijay Sankeshwar is addicted to shaking things up. A decade after this businessman and politician from Gadag district in North Karnataka revolutionised the Kannada newspaper industry by launching Vijaya Karnataka, a paper that quickly outstripped the then market leader Praja Vani, he is doing it all over again.

Why is Sankeshwar so interested in the newspaper world? The roots of it probably are in the fact that his family used to run a small publishing press which put out study guides for the state SSLC exams. Then, as evinced from his sale of Vijay Karnataka for Rs 300 crore, there was good money to be made in the business. Also, don’t discount the fact that newspapers are a wonderful platform for budding politicians. Sankeshwar, after all, was once a BJP Member of Parliament from Dharwad North and is now a Legislative Council member in Bangalore.

Sankeshwar’s tremendous advantage lies in his vast logistics network that he can leverage to reach out to every nook and cranny of the state, ensuring that his newspapers are deposited on the doorsteps of his readers early in the morning. Sankeshwar plans to roll out Vijaya Vani across 10 cities in Karnataka over a period of one year. He has already launched six editions across key cities in the state. He has set up his own printing sites in these locations and will take delivery of five new printing press over the next five months.

It may almost seem like Sankeshwar rued his decision to part with the ground-breaking Vijaya Karnataka. As soon as his lock-in period was over, he was back in business, this time purchasing a 57-year-old district-level tabloid, Vijaya Vani, published from Tumkur, and re-launching it as a state-level broadsheet newspaper on April 1, 2012. He met with opposition almost immediately. The Times group raised an objection to the title, Vijaya Vani, saying it clashed with the one the group had bought from Sankeshwar, namely Vijaya Karnataka, and filed a case in the Bangalore city court.

“The name Vijaya is not their family property. Anybody can have the name Vijaya. It only shows their desperation and they are scared of our aggressive launch. I consider it as an unhealthy practice,” said Sankeshwar in response.

Vijaya Vani may not be the force that its predecessor used to be, but considering Sankeshwar’s track record, it may be a good idea to take his words seriously. After all, his name is not just on those papers, it also means ‘victory.’’

Read the full article Sankeshwar to ‘disrupt’ Kannada papers, again in Business Standard

Fountain Ink: Giving journalism a fresh perspective and journalists their much loved space

Shradha Narayanan writes in her article titled “Writing long with a different ink” in The Hindu about Fountain Ink, a Chennai based short magazine of long form journalism, which had a humble start and comes wrapped in a minimalist cover:

Fountain Ink a Chennai-based magazine, has gone big with essays and photo stories instead of fiction and poetry. When the team behind Fountain Ink, was faced with the choice of either going all out or staying low key, budget constraints made them choose the latter. The team behind this magazine, only eight issues old, has no complaints. Fountain Ink was founded to favour long-form writing with detailed reportage, essays and photo stories, giving journalism a fresh perspective and journalists their much loved space. All this content is wrapped in a minimalist cover and the magazine itself comes at a low price of Rs. 20. During the first three months of publication, the magazine was sold at just Rs. 5 in Chennai.

Fountain Ink refrains from being a literary magazine and has gone big with essays and photo stories instead of fiction and poetry. “Fountain Ink is a short magazine and so they can choose to concentrate on a few long pieces,” says Sreekumar Menon who teaches at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.

“The thought is to revive the culture of writing essays,” says Saurav Kumar, the magazine’s editor. The essays section, unlike reportage, carries contributions from non-journalists too. Topics are diverse and the expertise of the writer in the subject area shines through his/her writing, spruced up by illustrations. Issues that the Indian is familiar with are discussed here and leave the reader with narratives that increase his/her understanding of issues one may not otherwise feel connected to.

A Writer’s Road, an article on hardships faced by the regional language author in the magazine’s January issue is so absorbing that it gets the reader racking his/her brains for strategies to help promote the regional language author.

The ‘photo story’ section is also one to look out for. Whether it is a collection of Mario Miranda’s work or a glimpse into the unreleased work of Sudharak Olwe, the photos are introduced artfully.

‘Q and A’, the interview section, lets us have long conversations on subjects with the people concerned, which is a welcome change in the world of two-line commentary.

Read the full article in The Hindu: “Writing long with a different ink”

Indian media: Symptom and perpetrator of a rotten democracy.

Wall Street Journal(WSJ) ‘s New Delhi bureau chief Paul Beckett writes an article titled Want Press Coverage? Give Me Some Money about paid news on his blog :

Ajay Goyal is a serious, independent candidate contesting for a Lok Sabha seat in Chandigarh. 

Never heard of him? Neither, probably, have a lot of people in Chandigarh because when it came to getting press coverage for his campaign he was faced with a simple message: If you want press, you have to pay.

So far, he says, he’s been approached by about 10 people – some brokers and public relations managers acting on behalf of newspaper owners, some reporters and editors – with the message that he’ll only get written about in the news pages for a fee. We’re not talking advertising; we’re talking news.

One broker offered three weeks of coverage in four newspapers for 10 lakh rupees ($20,000). A reporter and a photographer from a Chandigarh newspaper told him that for 1.5 lakh rupees ($3,000) for them and a further 3 lakh rupees ($6,000) for other reporters, they could guarantee coverage in up to five newspapers for two weeks.

“We would do good coverage for you,” he says they told him. All of those who approached him either were from national Hindi language papers or regional papers, Mr. Goyal says.

In one case, he went along to see what would happen: a press release he submitted full of falsehoods – claiming he had campaigned in places he had never been, for instance – ran verbatim. One thing he has never seen on his real campaign: a reporter there to cover the story.

“It’s disappointing,” Mr. Goyal says. “What good is literacy and education if people have no access to real news, investigation, skepticism or a questioning reporter.”

At the nexus of corruption in India, the nation’s newspapers usually play either vigilante cop exposing wrongdoing in the public interest (on a good day, at a few publications) or spineless patsy killing stories on the orders of powerful advertisers. Many papers also engage in practices that cross the ethical line between advertising and editorial in a way that is opaque, if not downright obscure, to readers. 

But it is of another order of magnitude to see reporters, editors and newspaper owners holding the democratic process to ransom. A free (in every sense) press is an integral part of a vibrant democracy. A corrupt press is both symptom and perpetrator of a rotten democracy.

“I’m not saying all media is biased but there is a growing sense in people’s minds that a lot of the media is biased,” says Anil Bairwal, national coordinator of National Election Watch. “Some do it in a sublime manner and some do it openly.”

So why are we surprised when the voter turnout is so low, despite the much-touted surge of political awareness among the young and post-Mumbai? It’s all part and parcel of the public disgust with the political system and the pillars of the Establishment that support that system as well. For every newly-minted reform-minded, politically aware voter, there are probably hundreds of jaded citizens who just decide the heck with it.

How widespread is the practice of pay per say?

The best-known English-language dailies typically don’t do it so blatantly, candidates and others involved in the elections say. Rather, those papers are more likely to hue closely to one major party or the other, making it tough for candidates who don’t fit the papers’ view of the world to be heard. But in the Hindi, Urdu and Gujarati media, to name a few, the practice is widespread, candidates say.

N. Gopalaswami, retired Chief Election Commissioner, says in an interview, “This is not something that can be ignored. It is not just a few apparent cases, it is much more than that.”

He has heard of newspapers proferring a rate card – one price for positive coverage, another for not negative coverage. The commission heard complaints in both 2007 and 2008 about candidates being charged for coverage. Among them, the national Communist parties who don’t have the deep coffers to spend on campaigns.

In Mumbai, a city appropriately geared to commerce, politicians are faced with multiple payment options. Consider these phrases from newspaper editors and brokers, which I culled from campaigners:

“You want a front page photo for free? This is something people pay for.”

“If you want a picture in there or if you want a story, we have to be paid.”

“We’re going to publish the interview, but you need to buy 5,000 copies of our paper.”

“1.2 lakhs ($2,400) for the next two weeks and I will take care of all that coverage.”