TRP-driven model bred irresponsibility: Sudhir Chaudhary

Visionary Talks Series with Zee News editor-in-chief: “for 60-70 years there was ‘Padma Shri type of journalism’ in our country”

GN Bureau | September 25, 2020


#Sudhir Chaudhary   #journalism   #news   #Media  


News profession is organic in nature, requires responsibility and discipline, and there is no room for mistake. To maintain high standards of accuracy you need discipline and hygiene in the newsroom. Sudhir Chaudhary, editor in chief of Zee News, Zee Business and Wion, has said that a TRP-driven business model of television has led to a lack of discipline and responsibility in newsrooms.

“Unfortunately these days the more irresponsible you are more TRPs you will get. For conscientious media houses these are testing times and they need patience.” He said.

Chaudhary was in a live webinar with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, on Thursday in the 13th episode of the Visionary Talk Series held by the public policy and governance analysis platform.   

To watch this and previous episodes, click here: http://www.governancenow.com/visionary-talks-series

Terming the business model of news TV “flawed”, the veteran journalist said it does not allow investment beyond a certain limit. He said that though a news organization is running a business yet people in our country consider news a free commodity and unlike entertainment do not want to pay for it.

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Likening the role of a TV news channel editor to a film producer where the fate at the box office is decided every Thursday, he said, “You are compelled to think of success formulas.”

Chaudhary also said that since its origins the definition of news has changed and people look for gossip and entertainment in news. The ambit of news has increased to include, gossip, entertainment and theatrics, and it is hoped that it comes back to its originality. He added that like news, the consumer taste will take time to evolve in our country.

While speaking on journalism of “appeasement”, Chaudhary said that for 60-70 years there was “Padma Shri type of journalism” in our country when different  governments obliged journalists and media houses in various ways, offering different types of grants like plots of land, houses and  awards.

“If I support and talk about good work of the government, instead of considering me a government spokesperson you have to check if there a hidden benefit or underhand dealing with the government or if the government is trying to get some benefit out of me. You have to see if such people have taken benefits from the government or if there is an underhand dealing between a journalist or media house and the government. If that is not the case questions should not be raised,” he said.

“In earlier days journalism was considered a good platform to gain access to power and governments would oblige their favoured journalists. Such people would feed pro-government news and become parliamentarians, ministers, get a Rajya Sabha seat and even a Padma Shri. Bigger the award, more respect a journalist would get. Slowly journalists started influencing transfers, postings, allocation of cabinet berths, creating alliances for political parties and becoming a bridge between government and corporates. We have accepted this for six-seven decades. Instead, if these journalists had given a thought of empowering their readers we would not be doing that work today,” said Chaudhary.

He criticized earlier political leaders and said they were not interested in giving access to education as people would then start questioning them; so they wanted them to remain uneducated. He gave the example of farmers and said that successive governments had given promises of loan waivers to them before elections but never empowered them to repay their own loans, so they always felt obligated to ask for loan waivers.

Responding to a question if news journalism is being dictated to drive a particular narrative, the senior editor said that in fact for the last five to 10 years news has got liberated and achieved its freedom. “Unlike earlier when only one side of the story made news and people didn’t know the intentions of Pakistan, history of Kashmir …, today a common man knows the meaning of Article 370.”

He, however, added that while media is free as never before, it is also driving agenda as with all types of views, it is an ocean where you will have to dive deep to find the truth. He lamented that these days awards are given for doing “negative journalism”. “When you are dividing the society you get awarded for uniting society. In such a situation how long can you go on competing,” asked Chaudhary.

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