Home > Uncategorized > Who killed the news channels?

Who killed the news channels?

In her 1969 book On Death and Dying, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler Ross postulated the now famous Five Stages of Grief that people undergo when faced with their impending death:
* Denial and isolation – The “This won’t happen to me! I don’t really have to worry” stage.
* Anger – The “Why me?” How dare you do this to me!” stage.
* Bargaining – The “Maybe I can evade this fate by co-opting or sidestepping it ” stage.
* Depression – The “It’s really happening and I can’t stop it” stage.
* Acceptance – The “Let it happen; I don’t want to struggle anymore” stage.

I have often used this Business School concept even on my client engagements… in the context of change management. However, as I see it now, the news channels are dying. Which stage(s) of Kübleresque stages is this industry in currently? The news channels are continuously changing their avatars… with every passing moment of time.

Death of the Media

But first, do I exaggerate the patient’s condition? I don’t think so. Nor do others. Furthermore, when I state that the news channels are dying, no, I don’t want it to die. I am just stating the condition of the industry. There will always be a need for journalism, but the question is whether there will be an industry in which journalists can work.

My disappointment stems from the irresponsible way in which these news channels exercise their right to bring news to the people… not that it is an over-night development but a gradual transition towards their death bed. It just reached a crescendo when today morning, I switched on one Indian news channel to see crazy news making the headlines… “sreesanth has a new hairdo” and “all Indians pray for sunita’s safe return”. How is a cricketer’s change in hair style important than knowing the plight of poor in one part of the world, than the good work being done by an unknown NGO in the interiors of a region, than the changing dynamics of the world economy?? And to top it all, when it comes to the gud things happening, the Indian media (yea, only the media) is quick in taking credit for a person’s success… when all that the person shares with India is an indian-origin tag (sunita has neither been born in India nor brought up here… and all that is left of her Indian-ness is just a name). Unnecessary hype around such events can be utmost termed as highly inconsequential. I, as a normal Indian viewer, reflect the aspirations of millions of other Indians… and I don’t care if X was invited to Y’s marriage and I don’t care if A changes his hair style on the cricket arena and it least bothers me to know how the personal fued between one father and son is turning to…. What is in it for me? Absolutely nutin… zilch!

There are so many more important events happening in this world, in this country. Things which have a direct or indirect impact on quality of life of millions – and sadly they hardly get a mention in the frantic craze to be the first to report anything sensational. The news channels seem to be forgetting the spirit of journalism … and until they (re)discover that, the public would have no other option other than shallow sensationalism and ‘sound bites’; and the media will lose its power and position to do anything worthwhile to the society as the fourth estate.

Now before we actually hear of the news channels’ murder, what can be done to salvage the lost sense?

Having learnt to give a blind eye to the declining popularity of these news channels, the bosses @ their helm falsely attribute it all to the internet revolution engulfing their industry. The easy way out for them is to pronounce their industry’s current status of being in Kübler-Ross’s second and third stages of grief:
* Anger — The ‘Those Internet bastards are stealing our lunch’ stage.
* Bargaining — The ‘I’ll make a deal with them or buy them’ stage.

But, trust me, even today, there is that need for these news channels… but who will care to hear me? Like the big needle or the cumbersome surgery, the prescription requires a wracking change of direction for news channels, and that direction is away from the cheap mountain-from-a-mole-hill gimmicks to a responsible news delivery. And that new direction probably requires new directors, just as a radically new course can require new pilots and navigators.

But is it too late? The news channels’ reaction to all these years of change to its environment has been ‘active inertia’ – doing the same as always but doing it now online. It is cannibalizing itself and wasting its remaining breaths.

  1. June 21, 2007 at 9:52 am

    From what I have been observing, the problem with news channels started the moment the concept of a “24 hour news channel” came into the picture.

    Prior to this the time allocated for news by the parent channel during a day was probably 3 hours max. This allowed for the most important content to squeeze in the limited timeslots and none had to bother much about the advertizing revenues. But when news programming got extended to 24 hours there obviously was a severe shortage of content…but more importantly gaining ad revenues and TRPs take centerstage. No wonder the content sucks.

    Initially this was a US phenomenon where even today tracking some teenager lost in some woods makes continuous headlines until he/she is found. Coming to our very own Indian media who can forget the “Prince in the Hole” fiasco last year. If you had observed, on that same day the rest of the world was hooked on as the Israel-Lebanon hostilities escalated with horrendous consequences but live-uninterrupted coverage of Mr. Prince feeding in his hole…along with those ostentatious displays of sympathy from those temples and mosques which held special prayers for his safety. And more recently when the media religiously followed every footstep of the exalted Bachchan couple.

    You (and many others) might be bemoaning the debauchery of the news media but the fact is that they don’t give a damn as long as there is a much larger viewership who relishes the content being dished out. And I don’t see this trend changing either. This realization sometime back made me a convert to the good ol print media (which still has some sanity left) and of course the web, without which we wouldn’t be discussing this 🙂

    June 21, 2007 at 10:48 am

    You echoed my innermost feelings about them. Dil ko chuli aap ki batein..

    Every news channel and news paper seem to be following footsteps of Deccan Chronicle.

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