Americans are traditionally good at branding and marketing. However, till 1991 Hollywood, whose movies are distributed across the globe, had one serious problem. They didn’t have a news media brand that could be identified globally. BBC was known universally but no American channel had such wide recognition. All that changed on January 17, 1991 when a small crew stayed back in Baghdad to report on the first Gulf war. In a few hours CNN became a household name across the world. CNN was the first 24X7 news channel in the world to report live from various sites; particularly disasters, accidents and incidents. 1991 was also the year private channels came into India. Most of them borrowed the same format of CNN but, unfortunately, borrowed the worst from American media. While CNN has since had an international version our news channels became 24X7 without having enough news content. They mostly report from Delhi, Mumbai and other Metros. Naturally, this meant filling up time with irrelevant stuff and a heavy dose of Bollywood, Cricket, excessive repetition of stale news and most of all political witch-hunts.
Before long, these private channels realised they didn’t have a revenue model to sustain themselves and thus came in political propaganda, witch-hunts, sponsored programmes without declaration (which they now declare). Other sponsored programmes include summits, conclaves, sham awards and some even using political clout for survival. They also give each other all kinds of awards so it is fair that we have a people’s version of the ‘Razzies’ for the worst news channels. Therefore this poll was conducted here and we have the results.
A bit about the poll: Voters were allowed multiple choices and therefore the total number of voters (4052) and the total number of votes or percentage share will obviously not match. Only news channels that grandly call themselves “national” channels were included in the poll. And being a govt propaganda channel Doordarshan wasn’t included. Besides, DD doesn’t have the same problems and challenges as the private channels. The results and tabulation are appended to the post.
Here are the five honourable winners of “India’s Worst News Channels” poll:
5. IBN7 – Being one of the latecomers in the Hindi news category IBN7 never seems to have picked up at all. Worse, the managing editor of the channel, Ashutosh, has become more of a political activist than a news channel editor. There is a particular form of contempt for anything that is “Hindu” that pours out of this channel that is most unbecoming of any outlet claiming to be a news channel. Who else would want to dress up an Islamic terrorist as a ‘saffron’ terrorist? Ashutosh may not like a political party or its leaders but to be constantly pouring out hate-messages doesn’t do much for viewership either. I am surprised Raghav Bahl didn’t shut down this channel or at least sack the editor. In any case, I expect there will be a time not too far in the future when this channel may wind up.
4. NDTV India (Hindi) – Their website says: “This 24-hour Hindi news channel stands strong as one of India’s leading credible news channels – preferred by an audience which seeks quality programming and pure news, rather than sensational infotainment”. I honestly don’t watch much of NDTVIndia but for a channel that is as much a political mouthpiece for Congress to claim “credible” is good imagination. And there is hardly any channel in India that is “pure news”. Here’s a challenge: If you can name the editor of this channel then you are probably someone who knows their business because I had to check twice myself. The only redeeming feature of this channel appears to be the popular show with Ravish Kumar, otherwise they are no different from their English mother when it comes to “Congress ke taraf se defend kar dena”.
Being the Hindi sibling of their English channels both IBN7 and NDTV (Hindi) change their character dramatically (from their English versions) to include a lot of mindless drama and BigBoss and Saas-Bahu stuff which seems to sell with Hindi audiences. This is staple diet for AajTak and ABPNews which top the Hindi ratings. This is, of course, in addition to Bollywood and Cricket which are common across all channels regardless of language. Here are TAM ratings released on December 14:
Even in TAM ratings both IBN7 and NDTV (Hindi) are languishing at the lower end. There also appears to be a problem with the branding gurus at these channels. It is doubtful viewers want brand extensions in multiple languages. In that respect, although people are aware, viewers don’t easily confuse AajTak and HeadlinesToday to be the same brand as they might with extensions of NDTV and IBN. There are also other local Hindi channels which they are competing with which aren’t named here.
3. Times Now – Clearly the market leader in English news currently and therefore less disliked than others. Much of the entertainment from this channel comes from the nightly circus with Arnab Goswami. While sometimes enjoyable, Arnab’s style has also started irritating viewers and his over-aggressive behaviour has motivated other anchors and reporters of the channel to misbehave with those they target for questioning. Along with IndiaTV, TimesNow can share the credit for destroying the concept of ‘breaking news’. Mindless headlines like “Sonia gets into her car”, “Sonia reaches PM’s residence”, “Judge enters the court room” or “Modi remains silent” are flashed and screamed as breaking news. Every 2 minutes through the day some silly nonsense is breaking news. The only advantage TimesNow has over other channels is that Arnab still remains taint-free and enjoys the value of ‘personal integrity’ with viewers.
2. CNN-IBN – I often call this a “mom and pop” stores. As with their Hindi sibling CNN-IBN too becomes a political activist quite frequently. Their editor Rajdeep Sardesai and deputy Sagarika Ghose are both unfit for journalism. They would have made better Christian missionaries for something like World Vision. The entire IBN group had to go through the trauma of firing over 300 employees and doesn’t seem to have a business model. People are yet to forget shameful episodes like Cash4Votes, unwarranted defence of SoniaG and RahulG, playing defence for Robert Vadra and, of course, being anti-Hindu in tone of their content. It remains a mouth-piece of the Congress but given the party’s downturn in recent times the channel has switched to propping up the AAP party. The channel does have some good journalists who are often left to do minor programmes. As with Ashutosh, both Rajdeep and Sagarika are known for their hatred for Modi and the right wing. Sagarika too should have been sacked long back but the ones who scream the most about nepotism and moral corruption are usually the ones who also fuel it the most. Ignoble excuses like “tyranny of distance” or not enough “body count” to report certain incidents will be the permanent hallmark of CNN-IBN.
1. NDTV – There isn’t anything that NDTV isn’t No.1 at, is there? Whether it’s worst journalists or worst channel, NDTV rules! Each year this Congress propaganda channel only grows more brazen in its nonsense, lower in popularity and (probably) deeper in debt. How the channel which makes consistent financial losses and keeps rewarding its top personnel is a mystery. The taint attached to the top personnel of a company always sticks to the organisation too. The unexplained dumping of a CBIcase against Prannoy Roy, allegations of financial jugglery, Radiagate of Barkha and their hate campaign against Modi add up to this channel being voted the worst. It is obvious that NDTV survives and gets away with things only due to its political capital and clout. An anchor of this channel wanted to question the SC about some ruling. They hold a sham award function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. They even use fake pictures and videos to report a serious disaster like Uttarakhand floods. I estimate a certain level of trauma for this political channel whenever the govt at the Centre changes. Till then they will enable us to see the “larger” picture or send us reports from the “north lawns” of the White House. Thanks also to NDTV; we have come to read every news item as “alleged” news. They are deservedly the No.1 in this particular contest; India’s worst news channel.
The channel voted worst in the poll has fallen even behind a relative newcomer like NewsX. Most readers of this site perhaps watch more of the English channels and therefore the worst ones could also be the most watched, given few options in English media. However, the votes polled proportionately reflect the viewer ratings by TAM too in order of popularity. Here are TAM ratings released on December 14 for English news channels:
It is also worth noting that each of the English channels claim they are No.1 in viewership with deceptive claims for different time-slots and events. Reminds me of the race where USA was declared coming in “second last” position by the propagandists. And the race had only two people; a Russian and an American. Do read Moneylife’s “TV channels hoodwink readers with misleading advertisements about themselves”. It is not just about themselves these news channels hoodwink people; they hoodwink viewers on many issues. It is increasingly hard to tell the difference between govt and news media. The watch has long gone out of the “watchdog”. But people are indeed able to see through them as the votes for the worst channels indicate. Our congratulations to the winners!
Poll results and tabulation
TAM rating figures… Thanks to @ASRaghunath.