Interviews

Sense is being replaced by sensationalism, news by noise4 min read

August 22, 2013 3 min read

author:

Sense is being replaced by sensationalism, news by noise4 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sporting a white kurta and jeans, he walks up to the dais and interacts with the crowd about changing scenario in Indian media. Giving a brief but broad insight into the life of a news anchor to the budding journalists at School of Communication, Manipal University, he discussed various issues in India today, while addressing faults in broadcast journalism itself.

One of the most familiar faces on Indian television, and well versed in all topics trending, he talks fearlessly about the corporation of media and its diminishing credibility, while replying boldly to queries against his firm. Yet, he points out that TV news channels cannot be ‘so competitive with each other’ that they overlook stories of public interest.

A student with multiple degrees as well a passionate cricketer in his college days, the affable and humble editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, Rajdeep Sardesai talks about what it takes to be a journalist and run a media house in an exclusive interview with TMJ.

Do you feel that the debates on news channels have moved away from ethics with few hosts turning authoritative over speakers?

Maybe some of them are drifting away from being a moderator in debates. If you are going to have six people in a debate, which at times even I do, you will naturally start becoming a judge. You can never have free flow of conversation between six people. Certainly, some channels are not looking to inform people through debates but provoke or instigate them. I feel today sense is being replaced by sensationalism and news is replaced by noise. News industries believe that such kind of ‘rockers’ debate makes good TV, which is sad. It is possible to generate good informative news content without it being sensational.

In the current media scenario, how tough is it for journalists to maintain objectivity in their news?

I don’t think there is anything there is anything like objectivity or neutrality. I think what treally exists , is honesty.The challenge is how honest you can be with the news. The real battle is not between objectivity and subjectivity. There will be always some subjective elements to a news story but can’t be partial. Above all, it’s about honesty and dishonesty. My worry is that there is a lot of dishonesty in the way news is covered today, and which is a completely unacceptable.

You were the Head of Editor’s Guild of India. What steps did you take to curb paid news in your tenure?

We took several initiatives actually. We wrote to the editors and proprietors of media houses asking them to take some kind of pledge against paid news. To my surprise, many of the editors replied stating that they are being forced by their proprietors to carry paid news, which is true actually. We also worked with the Election Commission, to provide them support and evidences to deal with paid news during the elections. My point is that, sponsored articles or news should have a disclosure. / be disclosed.

Do you think political personalities owning media houses tend to get in the way of legitimate news?

It’s not only politicians. Corporate houses and real estate guys are also getting involved in media. A person with black money getting into media industry; it is a worrying tendency. The challenge is not where your money is coming from but it is telling us where it is coming from.

How free are you as a person to post your opinion on the social media like Twitter, when it is expected of you to be objective on your news channel?

It’s a tricky question. I suggest to the editors of our network channels to restrain themselves on Twitter. I don’t endorse banning my employees from using Twitter, I think it’s a good way of communication. The episode following ‘Tyranny of Distance’, my Tweet, regarding riots in Assam, I have decided not to Tweet about political issues, rather lighter issues like philosophy , life etc.

What is CNN-IBN’s alternative for making money when TRAI is set to chop off your ad space from 18 minutes to 12 minutes from October 2013?

Currently, I see only two alternatives. First being, hiking the ad prices which can be fatal. The other, is the subscription revenue. In the West, ad revenue constitutes only 30-35% of the channel income, rest is subscription revenue. My argument to TRAI would be, ‘if you want to implement this rule, do it only once digitization is complete.’ Only when we have subscription revenues, can we rely less on ad revenue.