Indian television has perhaps gone through an evolution of change over the past few years. From the era of DD News to private channels and now online journalism, the news formats have seen multiple shifts.
Continuing his legacy of firsts, Sashi Kumar, the man behind India’s first private TV news channel, was the first national English newsreader at Delhi Doordarshan Kendra. He started his channel in 1993, following the model of Ted Turner and his idea behind behind CNN; both cable and TV channel.
Down south, Asianet, Sun TV, Eenadu used to run news and current affairs until the entry of Star-News into the market as a 24×7 news channel in the year 1998. In 1991-92, as we recovered from the economic crisis, a TV revolution took off with its news channels. Prannoy Roy’s ‘The World This Week’ (DD National) and ‘The News Tonight’ (DD2), and SP Singh’s Aaj Tak took things beyond our expectations of the format, and ignored the government’s style of news bulletins. These programmes introduced us to the new era of News.
From being familiar with faces of newsreaders, such as Salma Sultan, this shift in TV journalism introduced the TV audience to fresh faces: Barkha Dutt, Rajat Sharma and Rajdeep Sardesai, who etched a mark in this rising era of journalism in India.
Before the introduction of 24×7 breaking news channels, there existed news broadcast platforms including All India Radio, DD News and others. The 24-hour pattern of consistent media reporting started with the coming up of digital TV slots committed to news. This increased the pace and frequency of news creation, with an increasing interest for stories that could be played nonstop with steady refreshing content.
For instance. the OJ Simpson murder case in 1994 and 1995 made it to the 24-hour breaking news reporting and introduced the time of link news. This was a differential step towards the consistent pattern of media reporting that was being printed by newspapers every day. This obsession with faster and more-detailed news would only increase further with the advent of online news.
A consistent pattern of 24×7 media reporting comprises of the news channels first giving an account of an event, followed by reporters investigating a varied response by the public. The coming of the 24-hour link and satellite TV news stations and, in later occasions, of news on the internet (including web journals) significantly abbreviated this cycle.
This was the beginning of the great war of being the first to ‘break’ the news and create the buzz. Over time, things have only got more competitive and made channels sprint towards increasing their TRPs and maximising their profit. Most of the time, this race forces these news channels to source content just to ignite the fire of hatred, anger and biasness against a community based on caste, creed, gender and colour.
Today, this competitive race has led to new broadcast channels being launched almost every day, with the commitment of showing pure news in the interest of viewers. Digging deep, one may find that most of these organisations are owned and run by chit-fund owners, industrialists, builders or political investors. As soon as the clock strikes eight in the evenings, our TV screens get divided into eight segments, representative of a chaotic battlefield, where wars are declared over irreconcilable issues of ideology, caste, creed and religion.
On one hand, the advent of TV journalism gave a voices to unheard issues that had never been discussed on public platforms and hence, could never reach the masses. Incidents such as the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits due to communal tension in Kashmir could never reach the masses before these private TV channels came about. “I was 20 years old when this incident happened. I barely have any memory of the incident, and I only remember hearing about it. I was not aware of the gravity of this incident that had taken place that year. According to me, DD News was just a simple source of facts and information. It was only one-way communication and allowed no citizen to participate or voice out their opinion,” quoted a citizen.
TV journalism opened up a sky for opinions, discussions and arguments. It gave a loud voice to all those issues of our country that we had experienced over the years but could never talk about openly, including women’s issues, rapes, poverty, corruption and so on. But over time, the same news channels have started running a blind race of profit and TRPs, trying to target for a 24-hour cycle of content. This has not only degraded the content, but also affected the process of building and shaping society.
The journey that began in 1993 that changed the way people used to look at their 55-inch screen, and used to unite over shows including The Mahabharata and The Ramayana are now just serving the purpose of watching sports. Besides that, it is nothing more than an idiotic box.