Wednesday, August 21, 2013

IBN - The Bottleneck Is Always At The Top

On the face of it the following two tweets from members of CNN-IBN looks innocuous and routine programme information. One from Ruchira Singh, who handles the Social Media accounts for them and one from Rajdeep Sardesai:

A closer re-look based on other information that is now coming out of the TV18 group tells a deeper story. Why on I-Day would a news channel just leave a good part of the day with recorded programmes of Bollywood songs? That too some of it in the prime-time category!  There seems to be a deep churning of sorts within the group. Their CEO, Dilip Venkatraman, has reportedly quit last week and internal sources have been leaking stories of massive retrenchment at the group, fashionably styled as “restructuring”. Here’s what The Hindu reported on August 16 (excerpts):

Highly-placed channel sources, all of whom insisted on being anonymous, have told The Hindu that the network will ‘cut costs and human-resources by around 30 percent in each department’. There was no confirmation of the figure till late on Thursday evening, with authorized officials refusing to comment. Insiders said it was ‘almost certain’ that contracts of over 150 employees in IBN 7, and over 200 employees in CNN-IBN, would be terminated. A knowledgeable source said, “For a story, a reporter, cameraperson, equipment, a vehicle, a driver has to be deployed. Costs in each of these categories – staffing, production, and infrastructure – will be cut.” It is learnt that senior editorial staffers in key divisions like sports, entertainment and research may face the axe”.

A business sustains itself on a proper revenue model and survives on earning some profits for its stake-holders. In financial terms a 1000-day test is applied for loans and funds for a company to break-even and earn profits. Considering the IBN group was launched in 2005 (although their CNBC channel was launched earlier) it has been 8 years as the group kept absorbing poor financial returns backed by more and more investments in times of trouble. More inflow of funds may keep a business from folding up but not necessarily ensure profits. In such scenarios it is usually the frontline and smaller earners who pay the price.

Remember when Jet Airways sacked some 1900 of its employees overnight? They had to take them back due to protests by the employees and major coverage to the protests. In contrast the retrenchment at IBN is neither going to be covered by their peers in media and will be reported frugally in the print media. It has always been the case that when companies run into trouble the ones to be sacked most easily are the lower level or frontline employees. In the case of Big Bazar when they faced financial problems the first ones to be sacked were the check-out counter employees and even the bagging-boys at the counter. Actually, these employees are the least expensive in the organisation. The top guys who collectively draw a package almost equivalent to hundreds of the lower level employees usually get to stay.   

The problem is not unique to the IBN7 group. Other channels too are facing the music. NDTV, which has been in the red for many years, retrenched many employees sometime back. The first problem is lack of programming itself and the second is lack of a proper revenue model. While claiming to be national channels the IBN or NDTV are nothing more than local Delhi channels. Their programming is centred merely around Delhi and about politics. When the season is on they throw in Cricket and a regular dose of Bollywood. The rest of the country hardly exists. For a national channel low viewership is a serious problem. When the Assam riots were on, Rajdeep Sardesai famously said “tyranny of distance” as the reason for not covering the story on time.

If one adds up all the “news” content of any TV channel the actual content would not amount to more than one hour of news. The same news gets recycled for the rest of the 23 hours since they like to believe a 24X7 channel is the only competitive route. For an international channel like CNN, which was the first as a 24-hour cable channel, the reporting starts from around the globe. For Indian viewers, it usually starts from Hong Kong or Singapore, then to London, to New York and then to their main studios. Thus there is a world-coverage of news and important events. Even so, CNN itself has been sliding in ratings in the US too. In contrast the Indian news channels which call themselves “national” don’t even get viewership from all across India. English channels like CNN-IBN, NDTV or Times Now are not aired in many B-category cities. Most of these cities have local language channels or in the North they have the Hindi channels providing service. And where the business channels are concerned they really don’t have much news to offer. Whatever share prices or business information they scroll at the bottom of the screen is what most viewers watch them for. That scrolling part is now being done on all news channels so specialised business channels also make little sense.

The biggest crime of all is a lot of inaccurate news and fake news that is frequently aired by these channels. That and the propaganda-based programmes and debates which have taken a beating at the hands of Social Media. Some of these channels have built themselves around “personalities” alone and when these personalities get tainted by bogus programmes and comments the channel takes a beating too. It would be more honourable for a channel to sack editors and anchors tainted by such deeds than to sack lower level employees. Some of the people tainted by Radiagate still continue in their jobs as if nothing happened. It now appears that a channel will find it hard to survive merely on English news content as it definitely seems to reduce the reach. Some might decide to go bilingual which may be a better option. What is happening to the news channels is quite similar to the airline industry. Hundreds of air-hostess and cabin-crew training companies had come up all over the cities when the airline boom started. Except a few, almost all of them have now shut shops.

Rajdeep Sardesai may appear in promos with grand lines like “credibility over chaos” or “news over noise”. But advertisements don’t sell. I am not sure most viewers accept the credibility part. I am not sure most viewers accept even the news over noise part, considering CNN-IBN has one of the shrillest anchors in TV history. As for credibility, the group may have to first wonder what got them into “chaos” themselves and how to get out of it. They may sack hundreds of lower level employees but the chaos and noise doesn’t come from them. The bottle-neck is always at the top of the bottle, not the bottom.



  1. Ravi awesome article. It's appalling that tainted one's still exist in the media & continue to peddle lies after lies on their respective channels without fear, even though channels continue to incur losses, their false propaganda shows no signs of stopping. One needs to wonder why the one's responsible for calling shots allow same editors to continue even when they don't bring in profits. Wonder if they do realize laying off 30% of lower workforce will only cure symptoms and not the disease itself.

  2. Probably these old loss making hogs will "re-structure" and we will have the same old wine in a new bottle. The entire new media is now on a wrong base, with share holding patterns and investments from individuals and private companies, these media outlets should re-name themselves "Views outlets". Unless if they amend their business model to non-profit making non-share holding media Org. There are many Companies in the world who survive on such non-profit non-share holding models. This sounds difficult but it is achievable.

    1. Right.Most of them had become "Views outlets".Reason why they have fallen on bad times.

  3. right on . many of these prima donna anchors are legends in their own mind.

  4. Quote:
    "Actually, these employees are the least expensive in the organisation. The top guys who collectively draw a package almost equivalent to hundreds of the lower level employees usually get to stay."

    These words are the true face of 99% corporates (not just Indian but worldwide).
    Companies should not be allowed to have more than 20% profit. Whatever is earned more than the 20%, should be pushed back into R&D, Employee Incentives, Retention, Bonus, CSR etc. The employees should get to share the profits.

  5. Whatever happened to your article on Women who insulted and humiliated you. Awaiting it

  6. Absolutely brilliant. I don't think these so called national news channels will ever improve and provide objective news to the viewers.

    Interestingly same thing happened in Outlook also. But none of the media houses brought this out but happily calling Vinod Mehta for channel discussions. Disgusting.

  7. Good one, nailed it. Also, there are many people who had quit watching channels like NDTV and IBN, reason being their biased attitude, their thought that they are bigger than the everyone and their editors for obvious reasons.

    A channel with Sagarika Ghose as deputy editor is set to be doomed.

    Finally, I can say, "Aur Insult Karo Social Media Ki", the Angrezi Speaking crowd are your viewers and instead of attracting towards your channels, you guys complain about them on SM.

    With elections nearing, you may all be still hopes to earn deals and money from political parties but even then nobody will watch CNN IBN and NDTV until you guys start investigative journalism with true and unbiased reporting.

    1. Well said.Many have stopped watching those channels altogether thanks to their shrillness and worthlessness.

  8. although, people at the bottom are the first to go is because they are easily re-placable/ their workload can be easily absorbed by others...

  9. High time they followed the Gujarat/Modi model of sustainability in these channels- incompetence top-down should be weeded out.

  10. My observation is only on your finding that "Some of the people tainted by Radiagate still continue in their jobs as if nothing happened".This is true although one of them went into hibernation out of guilt and is on the way to making a comeback.Bakra Dutt took a different course, of placating key opposition leaders like Arun Jaitely to ensure that this matter is never ever raised in the parliament.They are such great friends at a personal level today that Radia Gate is a closed chapter for them.May be Niira Radia will have to bear the cross all on her own from here on.

  11. Such evil TV channels like CNN-IBN and NDTV are bound to vanish for their follies and misdeeds.Viewers are smart enough to understand that they are anti Hindu, anti Modi, anti BJP.No surprise their viewership is going down all the time.

    1. True.How anguished did we feel the way they criticized Hindus,RSS,BJP,Modi.....Good to see their chickens coming home to roost.

  12. "The bottle-neck is always at the top of the bottle, not the bottom." - Wah, what an accurate remark!!! The group did the right thing by sacking aging Udayan Mukherjee from CNBC. I do not know whey the group hangs on with the aged Rajdeep Sardesai and equally aged his wife??? Perhaps they will continue till the UPA government is voted out, as there is a possibility that the couple work for the channel without any salary and the Congress may pay them in cash. But till then, the group's financials should not go for a toss.

  13. congress inner circle and other politicians are commenting about FAITH.

    MMS: We have given you RTI, we have given MNREGA, we will give you (silent pause for 10 mins) Bonus Faith, if you have some..

    RaGa: Faith is the state of mind, we dont need faith. Faith is overrated. So dont have faith. Have Dreams instead. so we dont need faith.

    Salman Khurshid: Muslims must come together to garner some faith. And when i will show this faith to Soniaji, she will be crying and promptly write letter to PM to take appropriate steps to counter this faith.

    Raj Babbar: Faith is very cheap. One can get faith in 5 Rs/kg in delhi and 12 Rs./kg in Mumbai. Its cheaper than onions..

    Chidambaram: Such lowest amount of faith is because of increasing in golden Dreams. People should not buy golden dreams, buy faith so value of faith against american faith comes down.

    Manish Tiwari: Faith must be licensed. No one distribute faith per their wishes. We must control the faith by licensing it.

    Mulayamsingh: I will gove you some faith if you dont ask question, where is comes from? No CBI Inquiry in my Faith harvesting..

    Mayavati: There must be 40% reservation on Faith. Uper caste has all the faith and we are deprived of faith for so many years. We will fight for quota in Faith.

    Mamta: Dont make up your faith and use faith-cart to transport your faith.

    Omar Abdullah: We dont have faith in kashmir, its because of gujarat riots. We are not alone, everybody looted that faith.

    Modi: "Pradhan Mantri ji, Ek parivar me itana Faith kyo dete ho?, thoda 120 Crore hindustaniyo ko bhi do."
    there are some more but i leave those for next time. JAy Hind.

  14. "In contrast the Indian news channels which call themselves “national” don’t even get viewership from all across India. English channels like CNN-IBN, NDTV or Times Now are not aired in many B-category cities."

    I agree with you entirely. In Tamil Nadu most of the houses listen to Sun news and not any of the so called national channels. Even English knowing public watch only Sun news, a local channel. This must be the position in other parts of India.

  15. Completely True !!!

    Sharad Pawar doesnt know what went wrong with Onion !!

    Defence Minister doesnt know what went wrong in
    submarine !!

    External Affair
    Minister doesnt know what went wrong with PAK and CHINA !!

    Home Minister doesnt know what went wrong at Bodhgaya and Hyderbad !!

    Finance Minister
    doesnt know what went wrong with Rupee !!

    Coal Minister doesnt know who robbed the files from
    the ministry!!

    Prime Minister
    doesnt know what went wrong with all of above !!

    And then you
    see full page ads in the name of Rajiv Gandhi / Indira Gandhi / Jawaharlal Nehru in all major papers using our well earned money saying

    NIRMAN.... !!!


      They will bite the dust in 2014 Elections!!!!

    2. Anti-nationals and Anti-Hindus biting the dust in 2014 is merely the first light scratch on the hide of the beast devouring India. For their time to have truly come, the following has to happen (in perhaps this rough order):

      (1) Nationalist PM (Modi) to be voted in
      (2) Change of mentality of Indian people, unity amongst Hindus
      (3) Neutralisation of Congress Party and the Italian dynasty
      (4) Aggressive elimination of corruption
      (5) Neutralisation of traitors and fifth-columnists (leftists, MSM, fake intellectuals and other assorted morons)
      (6) Neutralisation of extremists (Communists, Christian missionaries and NGOs, Islamists with destruction of all associated militant groups and "political" bodies)
      (7) Overhaul of Indian military, large increase in military budget with special focus on home-grown research and technologies to ultimately achieve the ability to deter any combination of aggressive foreign nations
      (8) More aggressive foreign policy to deter meddling by foreign nations and their conversion compulsions, establishment of political will to deploy the military when necessary

      This is a long and difficult list, and probably misses some things, but achieving these are basic prerequisites for re-establishing our safety, integrity and self-respect. Modi will certainly do some of these, but I have particular doubts about whether he would be able to address (3), (5) and (6), which although potentially highly traumatic domestically, are essential. If they are not addressed, then quite simply Hindus will remain under constant attack in our own homeland. Just focusing on development and the economy may temper the intensity or lengthen lifetime but can it ever neutralise the threat? It seems like it's either fight back now or die later. But the cost may be high.

  16. Rightly said... They are no longer News Channels. They are simply propaganda machines for political parties, particularly the Congress. They will retire unceremoniously now. These celebrity anchors stare at a very bleak future as they are no longer trustworthy.

  17. Yes Ravi, these channels have lost faith, credibility!!!! They are private channels expressing the opinions of UPA ONLY and decrying the otherolitical parties who oppose the UPA?? Moreover they are anti National channels and anti Hindu channels!!!!,the day is not far off for their elimination from the scene!!,,

  18. Even in all this , I see victory of these scoundrels in media. They manage to retain their jobs, build a new image for themselves , trivialize their flaws and continue to survive and thrive .
    And yes , if those that are ousted / eased out cannot fight for their rights and get justice - then they deserve their fate. Every person of himself / herself. We are entering into a very dangerous phase of survival of the convoluted and the over smart.

  19. you gave a fair idea of shaky platforms on which business models of 24x7 News channels are erected. Unsustainable business models & profit centers which has in reality became loss-centers of News channels make them inevitable beggers at the door of crooked dynasty and get completely sucked in to darkness. Its the quicksend for MSM.


    Would the congress also rate the performances of paid-journalists(cash or kind),middlemen/lawyers/NGOs who appear on TV, on congress's behalf?

  21. Those so called National Channels had become NOTIONAL channels.Many of them thought that TV news was all about one's debating skills.Remember ARUSHI MURDER? Why it was that all channels kept giving us news on this one murder that was the simple crime of passion? How many channels have told us that 160,000 of us die on our roads every year? How many bothered to tell us how to save our lives on our roads? All we had were those barren debates by same old faces fuming at Modi or BJP or RSs or at Hindu communalists.Majority viewers being Hindus have seen through this.They could see that DD news was worse but these guys were worst.Majorities have switched over to local news channels,local news papers,DD News [ yes!] and social media.Long winter awaits NDTV,CNN IBN,TIMES NOW and others.

  22. Why on I-Day would a news channel just leave a good part of the day with recorded programmes of Bollywood songs? That too some of it in the prime-time category!

    Ravi, I already shared in twitter how I was in awe with you the way you dissect information. You have proved again with your above comment.

    In my opinion Facts carry 99% weight age and to make the fact resonate the viewer 1% but without that doesn't help the viewer subscribe to the report. You are really good in the second part and Facts are Facts (As you said, it doesn't matter who says it)

    Ganesh R

  23. It is not just media, many other things started failing. As Harish Salve put today on TimesNow "we as a nation became arrogant".

    After seeing successive growth for 6 years we felt we arrived already on the world economic map. At par with nations that took decades to grow.
    Arrogant that Foreign Investors had no option but to invest in India only.
    Arrogant that we can corner all service jobs across the globe.
    Arrogant that we can outsource lesser jobs and keep premium jobs.
    Arrogant we can eat at 5 star hotels forever.

    All that is coming down like a pack of cards.

    Why India is no more destination for investment? Among other we are a politically divided country. We cannot offer any stable policies.

    Government 'manages' to push through FDI using CBI. How an outsider sees it? Lack of political consensus. Will anyone trust a nation that is politically fragmented? It escapes even the great minds like Amrtyasen.
    Constitutional institutions raise issues of corruption. We counter-attack. Ascribe motives. What will be world's take? Institutions fighting each other.
    We treat neighbors aggression as acne. AjayShukla calls a section of India jingoistic. Moron Mani says let jawans die, we should not stop talks. What world thinks? Careless about own security.
    We raise army of NGOs to attack one person for political gains. Take the matters to UNHRC, President of the USA. What sense it gives? There is a daemon in India that could not be tackled by Indians.

  24. in this kind of situation. and such decision of board.,, isn't it ethical on editors part to resign before all.
    but we can't accept that from Old Monk ?? do we.

  25. Atlast, a sensible discussion without politics from NDTV

    It is funny the ways Arun S says "I wouldn't call the Brilliant economists but brilliant careerists"

  26. I used to think that media crooks was a BJP symphathiser web site but now I am beginning to see the truth no national channel Hindi or English are reporting on the unrest in Andhra pradesh the protests on bifurcation of the state even the newspapers don't report them is it being done purposely by them or by external pressures should come out

  27. I used to think that media crooks was a BJP symphathiser web site but now I am beginning to see the truth no national channel Hindi or English are reporting on the unrest in Andhra pradesh the protests on bifurcation of the state even the newspapers don't report them is it being done purposely by them or by external pressures should come out


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