There is huge hunger for news, says Ashish Bhasin

APAC CEO and chairman India Dentsu talks about the news media scene

GN Bureau | October 1, 2020


#Ashish Bhasin   #journalism   #Media  


India is a news-hungry nation with more than 1 lakh newspapers, apart from many news channels. News consumption is high – more so in smaller cities, and the industry needs to capitalize on its huge untapped potential, believes Ashish Bhasin, CEO, APAC, and chairman, India Dentsu Aegis Network.

Bhasin was in a live webinar with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, on Wednesday during the 16th episode of Visionary Talk Series organized by the public policy and governance platform.

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

“Despite the high number of news channels, due to the content generated the viewer is unable to ascertain if they are watching a GEC or news channel. The news channels need to capitalize on what the viewers want to watch and give it semblance,” he said.   

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Emphasizing on quality content and enhancing advertising in news channels, Bhasin said, “Advertisers would like their brand to be in a safe, reliable and trustworthy environment and not want to put their ads in an area of negativity. News channels should be mindful of that… Advertising follows eyeballs… if news is going to continue to be able to attract quality eyeballs then advertising will flow; otherwise it won’t. I think where they are probably going wrong is that they are fighting for eyeballs and not quality which is in the eyeballs and that balance that they need to get right. If they get it right, advertising in news channels in India can easily double and jump 100% from its current levels.

“By and large I am not of the belief that it is the advertisers’ problem to try to direct or control news channels for which there are enough government and regulatory bodies... if the government is pushed beyond a point it will not allow self-regulation and step in, which nobody is going to like…. It’s about how far you can push the boundary,” the media veteran said.

He was responding question on a clutch of biggest advertisers coming   together to give out warning signals to news channels to mend their content, else they will have to pull out and if news channels will dominate TV landscape and attract advertisers as they did before the lockdown.
 
Bhasin pointed that that news channels must come together to promote themselves to provide news as an alternative and refrain from bickering and fighting with each other. “Though market place can breed vicious competition between contenders but when it is concerning fighting for industry or common interests people must come together. It is embarrassing to see 20 news channels claiming No. 1 position in the weekly BARC data. You can cut, slice and dice data anyway you want and claim you are No. 1 and it is fooling nobody,” he said.

“When required, news channels must develop an attitude of fierce competition yet must cooperate and collaborate to lift the entire genre. It is good to have boundaries and understanding for each other. Taking potshots at each other sometimes gets you market share but beyond a certain point it sinks the entire genre in the eyes of consumers,”  he observed.

“If news channels came together and said that news needs to be independent and collectively worked to find solutions, it would do the genre more good. Rather than building the medium they are denigrating each other which will eventually impact everyone as they are part of the same eco system,” he added.

While speaking on digital growth in the country, Bhasin said it is as majorly aided by the government as by the micro efforts. “99.8% new people are coming to internet via mobile and a huge explosion in future will happen from Tier-II and Tier-III cities and rural areas. In addition to 450 million internet users as per Denstu’s own study there will be 300 million new users in the next two-three years.  Digital content will start going regional and vernacular. This is natural impetus for digital with the Covid period.”

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