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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A "nationalist" TV channel?


Many responses to earlier blogs centre on the need to have an alternative media--particularly a TV channel that projects a "nationalist" perspective.

The idea is not new. Over the past 10 years I have attended numerous meetings and met people professing an interest in the project. My experiences have left me quite disheartened.

Let me narrate some of my impressions and conclusions:

1. Any alternative channel has to have a very broad political orientation. It must be able to cater to the widest community that feels left out from the existing liberal consensus. Unfortunately, most of those who have leverage over the money bags have a narrowly sectarian agenda, whether political or denominational. In recent years, numerous charlatans have raised money from the markets on the strength of their Hindu or Sangh credentials. Most of these projects have sunk without trace. And all because a tiny group wants total control.

2. The sums of money involved in putting together a news channel is staggering--nearly Rs 500 crore to begin with. In today's market? Forget it.

3. Can we blend professionalism with commitment? Without professionalism and quality you can't compete. I'm not sure this is fully understood by all those who are rightly exasperated by the liberal media.

4. The existing "nationalist" media is pedestrian. Unfortunately, its practitioners don't even recognise it.

My conclusions may seem cynical but I am willing to be proved wrong.

25 comments:

venkatesh said...

Swapan Da,

Thanks for writing this post. It is well appreciated that you care to respond to comments. All valid points. Professionalism and commitment are paramount in such a venture to be able to build and maintain a reputation. To generate a wide appeal is not such a big issue, especially if you follow dharma as you will only fight for the right and that in itself will generate respect and get people to watch it even if they dont agree with the views. I dont mind a contrary view. However,what you see in the channels today is rubbish and completely biased which can be seen through quite easily. The finances are an issue but in a year or so I think it will ease out. I hope you meet someone with the right amount of money and the willingness to give some freedom to professionals such as yourself. I am a bit younger than you are and perhaps a bit more optimistic!! I hope the stars come together and we see you in a TV avatar sooner than later.

Oldtimer said...

You are bang on the money. Point #3 especially stands out. A TV channel narrowly focused on ideology will be a disaster. It should serve the infotainment fare that the average viewer wants. I'm sure half of Times of India readers vote for BJP. But then why aren't they buying The Pioneer? Why do they even put up with the crass propaganda on ToI? The reason I believe is that while many people may share a larger political view, ideological passion remains the pursuit of a few.

At the same time though, I believe the numbers of these few are swelling, thanks to the very blatant nature of the prejudice on display in the 'liberal' media. The "discerning" person is tuning out of the establishment media and turning to the internet for information. I do firmly believe the time is ripe for a 'nationalist' channel, because a market for this channel is developing. Somebody who sets up shop NOW, with the right mix of ideological commitment, professionalism, sophistication, aggression and business savvy will have rewards to reap in the future. Obviously, somebody schooled in RSS orthodoxy is not the right person to run it. Can he even contemplate having to end the 9'o clock bulletin with the latest on Rakhi Sawant? The logical conclusion is that the nationalist channel will have to be an independent private enterprise unattached to any political organization.

One final comment. The nationalist channel will need lots and lots of courage to take on the entrenched interests. The technique often used by establishment media to grab eyeballs is to manufacture controversy at the expense of the right. The Mangalore pub incident is a good example. Two birds at one shot: TRPs scored and also damage caused to the political rival. If the nationalist channel can turn the tables, if *it* can become the agenda-setter, the sky will be the limit for its success. That would mean taking on the "liberal" establishment on the latter's terms, using its language and conceptual categories, and within the bounds of political correctness. This is one of the areas where the existing "nationalist" media (your point #4) miserably fails.

Thanks for indulging the rant.

socal said...

Swapan,

Not just in India, but in most places around the world, why is that the nationalist media is always few steps behind the dominant liberal media?

e.g., WSJ is rightist to an extent, but people don't take its opinion pieces seriously, as much as, say FT, with similar background.

Dhruv said...

Swapan Da,

India desperately needs a more balanced media.
The current bunches of so-called journalists are doing immense damage to the country's interests. The media need not be right or left tilting, Just balanced...The problem is not that we see erratic occasional insanity from sections of the media, rather most of them have become habitual offenders, becoming mouth-pieces of narrow and biased sources. Personal agenda and egos/likes-dislikes rather than the issues take centre-stage. It doesn’t feel like you are watching Indian media, rather a media of an enemy country.

I would encourage home grown industrialists who have big stake in India in terms of investments, there future tied to India's prosperity, people like Ambanis and Tatas to come forward and do work for such channels.
It’s in their big interest as well that the right kind of voice comes from the media, which could create a strong opinion in favour of national interests.

We are not expecting a pious, goody-goody, utopian media, which plays safe, which doesn’t criticise or which doesn’t try to make money. It should not be a charity or a non-profit channel, it has to have a commercial model and make money, only then will it be successful, as it needs to attract talent. It should make money by attracting viewers who would watch it for good analysis, for its content and its topics of national interests. If the vision and neeyat is right, day-today topics and contents automatically fall in place.

To given an example of how the current media is ignoring national interests, almost the entire media lost all sense of objectivity, and many of them let their personal grudge against Modi dominate by blocking the coverage of Vibrant Gujarat. A news like $250 billion (look at the money, its unbelievable) MOU signed, is of unparalleled importance to the nation, an unprecedented event that should have stayed in the headlines of each and every nationalistic media for at least a week... rather in reality it was mentioned in passing by a small section of the media.

rajan said...

I must say that there will be a wide audience among Indians in America to the cause of a "nationalist" media in India.
With youtube and blog so easily accessible it can serve as a counter to the biased current television media in India.
This can provide enough leverage to encourage financial and professional support.
Case in example myself who makes sure to read, view blogs/news/articles/speeches by yourself, arun shourie, tarun vijay, ....
Ofcourse would like to do more than just reading...be it financial support, professional opinion, or whatever is required to bring and maintain a "national media" to its fruition.

Pugnacious said...

Swapan, I only partially agree with your reason for the absence of Nationalist Media.

I think the professional functioning of the organization to a very large extent has to do with the processes and systems that are in place. And as such, the employment of any range of people irrespective of their personal views, cannot impact the pre-mandated functioning till the time the employees:- are well-paid, well-trained and adequately managed - A job that is the responsibility of the senior management So what is essentially required is good HR practices coupled with competent (and motivated) editorial team.

As for your concern about making the channel widely acceptable, which largely means that you want ‘the Sofa Bolsheviks’, ‘the Taproom Gandhians’ and off-course ‘the Arm Chair Nationalists’ to consider this proposed channel as a vital part of their instinctual channel surfing mechanism. Then I guess that too can be managed the same way as other channels do without compromising their political bias.

To be more precise: the Nationalist News Channel’s political mandate should insist on making subtle points rather than ‘in-the-face’ propaganda. The channel can still deliver the requisite political imagery along with clarity in presentation of fact by using widely recognized leftist jargon to make a nationalist point. This way the News channel can continue to insist on political virginity, verisimilarly to 24X7’s claim.

For instance, news tickers can be

“RSS Worker Shot Dead” - which really is a murder of a religious preacher, can be stated as – “Persecution of Indigenous Faith in Kandhamal”

Or, “CPM seeks Nuke-Free South Asia” – which is really nuke-nuding india, can be – “Politicians may deliver India to the receiving end of Nuclear Apartheid”

Or “US insists India-Pakistan dialogue on Terrorism” – which is really a hyphenation, can be – “Indan Govt unable to convince US on Pakistani Terrorism”

Swapan, the fact that even some charlatan’s could squeeze out money from the market make’s one sit-up and think on the possibilities. The market is so under-provided that even mountebanks can be trusted with holy cash.

I believe that Arun Shourie, Chandan Mitra, yourself, Tavleen Singh, and many more can really mobilize the requisite professionalism and Dharmic integrity that may be needed for the job.

Tamasic

doubtinggaurav said...

Hi,

Just a little nitpick. You wrote about professionalism of ELM (English Language Media), which, to be frank, I will never associate with the likes of PadamShri Sardesai or ParamShri Shekar Gupta.

robin said...

I see as on today the only balanced channel is NewsX. However in this era of sensationalism this understated news channel is lacking the TRPs. I am sure Money is not the issue but people who are funding the venture would be subjected to a hate campaign by the rest of secular media.
One needs to have the strong will and support to accomplish the objectives

doubtinggaurav said...

You have alluded to people affiliated with Sangh raising money from markets. Perhaps this is the wrong way. What about some prominent industrialist with nationalist sympathy creating a space for nationalist in media.

Anonymous said...

You make a very good point. We need an Indian Fox news. You talked about the difficulty of starting a TV channel. But here in TN and Kerala all the parties have their own channel. Even a tiny party like PMK has a channel. DMDK will have one soon. MDMK will be launching one shortly. Congress has one. DMK has 5 or 6. ADMK has 3. Left has 1 in Kerala. If all these minor parties can have a channel why it is difficult for the BJP to launch its own channel. I really don't know the answer. Can anybody answer that?

Karthik

rightist said...

Dear Swapan,
I'm assuming thw following summary from your blog. It is a bit simplistic, but, I suppose it conveys the idea to Mathematical souls like ours.

a)The sums required are enormous( 500 crore at a minimum)
b)You are not entirely happy with the current so-called Nationalist Media.

I would believe that, there is an market for proper unbiased reporting in the National Media. I would think, that, the prerequisite for such a huge invetsment would be an available market.

A cursory glance of the blogosphere will tell you how much disenchantment is present against mainstream Media channels currently.

I might add, that, I used to like NewsX channels coverage for some time. Today, My cable operator has cut this channel. The reason might well be political. Not sure why?

I think BJP should talk with their Industrialist friends for gaining proper finance/funding for such a channel.

Cheers..Please do keep writing..Fun to read ur stuff..

ayush said...

I sometimes fail to understand why cant business houses take the nationalist cause ? wouldnt it make a profitable venture ? arent there enough nationalists who will watch their channel instead of the cnn ibns and ndtvs of today ?

Anyway my view is that in the coming years the blogging community will itself be a force to keep a check on the mainstream media, there have already been signs of this especially in the barkha dutt vs c kunte case ... hopefully with prominent nationalists/journalists like you embracing the blogosphere i think our voice will surely be heard

NR said...

Swapan da,

As one of the person has pointed out even a small party in south has a channel. Congress too has two channels in TN and Kerala each and now in AP as well.

Quality may suffer initially but an alternate media wil drive traffic, and hopefully revenue.
Let that be at it

Why not first start with a web tv.
TN BJP has already started a web tv Thamarai(Lotus)TV. Kerala BJP too is to launch web tv. These either have their videos loaded onto a space or use you tube accounts for getting the video content.There are many willing to contribute video to it. There are not many channels that concentrate on state of various road, railway and other infra projects and keep giving constant update. Such a content based web tv would start attracting traffic for being different initially. Also local perspective on issues could be easily brought out.
All the realated vernacular and national web tv links could be hosted on a single site, which will also have news feeds from pioneer networks,articles from rightist bloggers, thinkers apart from articles from like minded persons from public.

Also these articles can be made to appear in google news service.

Such a site will then become a low cost alternate news site. A hit project will then have hopefully takers for regular tv channel as well.

I hope such an idea will be feasible.

bloggerind said...

Swapan Da,
To be simple, only point 2 (investment of around Rs.500 crores) is the biggest challenge as of today. Rest all will fall well in place after that.

What is required is backing of a rich industrialist (may be TATAs or Ambanis). Have the money power, and I don't think there is anything that it can't do.

Hunt 2-3 more IIM graduates (just like Pradyut Bora who is IT cell convenor of BJP) and let them start doing business. Hope they would be knowing all the marketing and management gimmicks - all that is required for revenue generation.

Indeed, it should just be an other channel with a different set of editors.
And we at least know, there is no scarcity in the number of intellectuals (editors) in the 'right' community.

In my opinion, it is the WILL, that is missing !

iamfordemocracy said...

You cannot discuss a TV channel without discussing its balance sheet and its trading account. 500 Crores may or may not be a big some.

On the plus side, there is a good demand for such a channel, at least from educated Indians. The question is whether that would be sufficient to generate a going revenue. The negatives that need to be considered are

1. How do you have 24 hours of good programs. Will intellectuals watch for more than an hour a day? Who will make programs for masses?

2. Will such a channel ask tough question to BJP? For all that BJP says, it rarely does anything for Hindus.( For example, Most temples are government controlled, no mosque or church is. Will BJP ever DO anything about that?).

3. Will there be free debate or will everyoone have to sing praises of established leaders?

4. People who speak against Hindus and India are relatively secure. If a media house adopts a pro-Hindu policy, quite likely, its employess and presenters will be threatened, attacked, harassed. Do you have an answer to that?

finally, I am not sure I want to see words such as DHARMA or COMMITMENT in a discussion about the viability of a channel. For Dharma, look at channels like Aastha. COMMITMENT will come with proper reward. What you need is a secure business model.

Anonymous said...

There is one way out. Takeover of a reasonably professional channel/media/news organization and all it needs is some money.

Is India Today group a candidate?

Dr. Rajkiran Panuganti said...

Swapan Da,

I'm also one to believe that it is futile to launch a new Nationalist TV.

First of all, I think BJP and people has nearly learnt how to filter out news from media propaganda.

Second, all that we need to TRP based channels is to throw some money at one or two key people in that channels. (though I'm usually against such practices, it can be a short term remedy)

Third, the messages delivered by Modi, Jaitley, Advani etc. are stronger than any masala that the messengers can add. So, we need to develop capacity in people to handle hostile media rather than complaining about the hostile media.
There are cheaper ways to do it.

Santosh said...

Swapan ji, you are the lone warrior of English media, all others have sold their country and their mother for some green. As someone said on the Bharat Rakshak forum, the behaviour of English language media except Daily Ppioneer can be summed up in one sentence - Got money? Shall Print. You have our respect.

Anonymous said...

I am a member of Ekal vidyalaya (sangh supported).

Zee chairman Subash Chandra is the chairman of Ekal. So we can gleam his views to be right aligned.

We should maybe encourage such established channels to become more pro Right wing???

Anonymous said...

if we can raise 500 crores, then we should just buy out Rajdeep Sardesai.
He will even sell his mother if the price is right.

Vik said...

Swapanda,
The idea of having an alternative, neutral(pro-BJP) news channel is very good. It is the need of the hour. I am sure there are lots of people like me who are sick of watching biased news channels. So, there's already large number of viewers waiting to watch such a channel. As you rightly mentioned that the channel has to be highly professional. This will bring other "neutral" also into its fold. Maintaining high TRPs will not be a problem. I am sure a lot of people are even willing to contribute financially for such a channel. I know I am.. Pls do something about this. We must work to make this a reality...

raj said...

@Vik,

Whats the point in the magnitude of effort required to have a pro-BJP channel ??

Look, we must decide on whether to follow chanakya niti or that of principled BJP.

If you ask me personally, I would prefer sticking to principles and neutral channels must be encouraged and we must not have a pro-BJP channel. Its interesting that you have neutral=pro-bjp in your comment.

However, if the principled line is not helping us, then, lets go all out and follow chanakya-niti. According to which, it is futile exercise to invest millions of dollars, build a channel, compete with others,...

Take chanakya's example, once he was walking and a thorn from a huge tree hurt him. Being a brahmin, he did not want to cut the plant away. Further, to uproot such a big tree, it was a difficult task too. So, he fed the plant with water, but with hot water. He ensured that the roots of that tree gradually die never to rise again.

So, the idea is to infiltrate into these very channels. Remember, the foot journalists form the roots of these channels. So, the idea is to infiltrate into these channels and not to compete with them. Infiltration of BJP members provides jobs to BJP supporters, and our purpose will also be solved. Once a sufficient entry is made, favoritism based recruiting will help in faster infiltration.

However, I'm willing to support such a tactic only with those channels which can be conclusively be called biased and do not deserve the tag of 'media' to them. Strictly only to those channels. I call them, "Sensational Video Bloggers".

This line is a slippery slope. We must not make media pro-BJP. We must strive for neutrality. So, special care must be taken that we do it only to these few channels.

Shekhar said...

Personally, I feel instead of having a pro-BJP channel, we need a News TV network with an anti-establishment alignment. That way, there would be a better balance in the short term, as well as the fears that it may not ask uncomfortable questions of the BJP, would be laid to rest.
The fourth estate should be devoid of any partisan leanings for a healthy democracy to be nurtured and nourished. What we see currently in the like of CNN-IBN and NDTV is blatant interspersing of anti-BJP and pro-Congress views with the news. Some journos like Mr. Roy and Mr. Sardesai atleast make an attempt to mask it.
Others like Ms. Ghosh and Ms. Barkha Dutt shamelessly carry on propaganda in the garb of conducting debates on Live Television.

Siva said...

To say the media (english) corrupted BJP's image is absolute bunkum. Even IPL 2 managed 12-15 million viwers, then one can arrive at what would be the viewership for NDTV Barkha's. The truth is half of the population is illiterate (cow belt) and don't even watch their regional channel, let alone news channel. Even so they don't influence the urban/rural voters, so get over this media bashing and start door to door campaign like the evangelists. It's because the BJP's ideology and manifesto is so esoteric to even hindus (non-brahmin, non-sanskrit illiterate voters) as well as states that are not ruled by muslims. If people understood 370, UCC, why such a dismal performance in Uttrakhand, where brahmins constitute 40% of electorate?

Anonymous said...

My personal experience is, i have stopped watching any of the news channels for more than a year now. One can easily make out the extent of bias by watching the news for just 5 minutes. All of these editors have sold out, they are shameless & insane so it is difficult to expect any nationalism from them.

But, in a way, they are helping unite the Hindus by their biased news. With the large audience disenchanted, i see a nationalistic channel taking shape very soon.