Focus on `real' India
The motto for the recently launched India TV is, back to the basics. Its focus will be more on rural India, its chief Rajat Sharma tells ZIYA US SALAM, and not on films, fashion or food festivals. The question is whether it can survive without the `F ` business.
Anchor and now the chief of the recently launched India TV, Rajat Sharma Pic. by V. Sudershan.
THIS IS one channel that aims to steer clear of the `F' business. Media across the country might be swearing by the `F' word, but the all-new, all-aspiring India TV wants to plug a gaping hole in electronic media's news coverage and take the route to the roots, the road less travelled, the countryside less seen. Or heard.
Staying consciously away from films, fashion, food festivals, and all that sends the circulation of newspapers and TRPs of TV programmes racing ahead, India TV, claims its chief Rajat Sharma, aims to bring the focus back on real India, where cattle might still be subjected to cruelty on the roads of Jaipur, where salt might still be adulterated in Bhopal (with Tata Namak being replaced by Taja and Captain Cook by Captain Hook) or where thousands of birds might be killed in Muzaffarnagar. It is back to the basics. And as Sharma puts it, ``nothing is similar to anyone else.''
Is the channel, launched recently, as good as Sharma's claims?
``We had decided to launch it before the elections but the polls were advanced. So it seems there was a deliberate attempt to time it just after the results. Not our fault that the elections did not take place at the scheduled time. Now, as an upcoming channel we are staying clear of the `F' business. No unnecessary sensation, no report on film or fashion unless there is an event or an important news angle to it.''
India TV, with Tarun Tejpal and Maneka Gandhi giving company to Sharma, claims to take the viewers where the real action is. ``We are doing the metros probably as well as anybody else. But we intend to cover rural India, which has not been touched by other satellite channels. We are trying to strike a balance between extensive and intensive reporting. We have a team of 200 reporters and stringers in the Hindi belt focussing on States like Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. We are, and will remain, a Hindi channel but ours is a viewer-friendly Hindi, basically more Hindustani.''
Talking of Hindi, the channel's reporters, correspondents and anchors do not seem to have taken a leaf out of the Aaj Tak book. Their clear and correct pronunciation takes you back to the time where people on the small screen spoke Hindi the way it was meant to be spoken, when everybody called a fruit `phal' and not `fal', an aeroplane `jahaz', not `jahaj' and life was `zindagi', not `jindagi'. Not to forget the good old `prasad' that often became `parshad' or `prashad'. Says Sharma, ``Our reporters are given special attention by Ghazal Amin because we do not want anybody to misspell or mispronounce anybody's name or word on the screen.''
What about Tarun Tejpal? He does not seem to be entirely at ease with the language? ``Well, he is picking up and we are confident he will do better with Hindustani. One does not have to speak chaste Hindi all the time. The accent is on correct language.''
Beyond speaking Hindi better than many Hinglish and Hindi channels, what is India TV's USP? ``The USP is that it is a responsible channel of public interest. At a time when others are focussing on films and fashion, we are concentrating on human interest stories. We have picked up special issues to highlight, ranging from the treatment of birds in Muzaffarnagar to silverwork's harmful effects. We have had stories on people committing nuisance in public places or on underutilisation of funds, there is a vast range. We want to go beyond politics and sports. We have Maneka with us. We are going to focus on health and education.''
All that is fine but a month since its launch, the channel has not been able to appeal to the advertisers or make a dent in the prime time TRPs of its competitors. ``It is just the beginning. We believe when the viewers are with us, the advertisements will follow.''
Well, that calls for a patient wait. What can be done urgently is to give a facelift to India TV's studios, where news bulletins are repeated often enough to enable you to memorise it, where the ticker runs like it has to crawl to safety.
But then these might just be teething troubles. And we all know, life beyond the `F' business is not the easiest.
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