Rulebook for Indian TV News Producers

Any newbie TV News Producer who wants to compete with the top Indian news channels will be well advised to comply with the following guidelines:

  1. All news is BREAKING NEWS. This also means that if there is no news, BREAK all journalism rules to get BREAKING NEWS.
  2. TV news channels are in the business of TRPs, not news.
  3. It is imperative that Red should be the principal color of your visual style.
  4. Headlines should be in UPPERCASE (known in India as CAPITALS).TV News Channels
  5. There should be more animation on your screen than on an animation channel.
  6. Within each 30 minute segment, there should be at least one story on:
    • Pakistan / Terrorism / Al Qaeda
    • Indian Politics
    • Obama / US – India relationship
    • Cricket
  7. If you’re wondering why Bollywood is not part of the above list, you should realize that Bollywood should have its own 30 minute slot.
  8. Within each 30 minute segment, there should be at least one SMS Poll, inviting reader participation.
  9. There should be repeated ‘COMING UP’ teasers via anchors and headlines on the screen. It does not matter if the content referred to actually comes up or not.
  10. Each news story MUST be accompanied by a video. If no video is available, repeated zoom-in and zoom-out of static photographs is the last recourse.
  11. The date of the video does not matter; having an outdated video is better than no video at all. Forget industry best practices guidelines of showing actual date of videos. Whether the video refers to the actual event of the story does not matter as long as it is somehow related to the story.
  12. The protagonist of the story should be circled red in the video. It does not matter how obviously identifiable he is, or even if he is the only person in the video.
  13. If the video clip is short, loop it till you milk everything possible out of the story.
  14. Politicians, celebrities and sportspersons never argue, disagree, criticize or blame. They always BLAST, SLAM, or ATTACK.
  15. Even if a politician, celebrity, or sportsperson says something of the same sort that he has been saying for the last two decades, he REVEALS ALL, BARES ALL, or EXPOSES.
  16. All interviews to your channel are EXCLUSIVE, irrespective of how many other microphones are visible.
  17. There are no talk shows, there are only DEBATES. Each 24-hour schedule should have at least one or preferably two debates with guests. The decibel level of the debate, not the content, is directly proportional to the TRPs.
  18. For every story shameful to India, question and discuss with the guests, ‘Are we just going to forget this two weeks from now?’. Sound moralistic and ignore the piles and rooms of archives available with you.
  19. Expert opinion counts, but street opinion counts as well, or even better. If you can’t get expert opinion, interview people on the street. The background of the ‘common man’ does not matter, as he is supposed to be common.
  20. Synchronize your ad breaks as far as possible with other news channels, so that people don’t switch and stick to other channels during your ad breaks.

Readers may provide additional guidelines to you via comments below.

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56 thoughts on “Rulebook for Indian TV News Producers

  1. I agree with each and every item. So true. I would add one more though
    “Use stupid horror-mystery-music when showing a serious story.”

    I remember two years ago when I was back home, they were covering the story about missing children and they kept on playing the creepy-wind music.

  2. Wow, if possible, it sounds even worse than American telelvision. Which is a heck of an accomplishment, albeit in the wrong direction.

    One way to consider your post is that it might be an excellent exposition on the advantages of books.

  3. Mahendra,

    Hindi news channels are worse than the English ones. The background score, artificial voice, silly graphic effects and all.

    Moreover, I dislike the systematic elimination of Hindi words from news channels. The channels reek of incomprehensible Urdu words. So now we have to learn Urdu too?

    Priyank.

  4. Amazingly on target:
    Add two more:
    – If anyone attacks you for irresponsible reporting, use the cliche “Don’t shoot the messenger”
    – Show nothing but Varun Gandhi, Lalu, money being handed out in election rallies, other sensational stuff – and claim there are no real issues in this election.

  5. Mahendra

    Let me contribute some:

    1. Do not use just one language. Make sure your news reading is a presentation in a khichdi of English (or something that resembles it) and Hindi/ Hindustani (never mind the grammatical rules! Throw all caution to the winds and make sure that the verb never appears towards the end of the sentence; that privilege is reserved for the noun in the nominative case).

    (Mahendra, as you can see, I have demonstrated with one small example how to make that khichdi but I can only dream of the proficiency that the TV news readers have accomplished.)

    2. If it is a female autocutie, especially reading business news, do make sure she is wearing an ill-fitting, _male_ jacket. Sarees and Indian clothing that fit are to be avoided at all costs. This is because business news is a western concept whose significance is diluted if delivered wearing pesky Indian clothes, never mind how bizarre like the woman looks in her ill-fitting ‘western’ outfit.

    3. Interrupt the ‘news’ every minute to show loud (louder than the news) advertisements usually of talent contests with rude judges and incompetent competitors, whose formats have all been imported from abroad. It shows the network in a ‘global’ light and should scare the n00bs easy-peasy. These ads may sometimes be varied to show Bollywood or cricket stars endorsing products in highly suggestive ways that bear no relationship with the product being sold.

    4. When interviewing a business person, speak haltingly – in khichdi Hindi/ English – to give an impression that you are so smart you are making the interview questions on the fly. Repeat inane questions till the respondent is driven to distraction or gives you the answer you want so you can use it as headlines for the next, we, 6 hours.

    I have more but this abstraction has exhausted me. Waapis aate hain, break ke baad.

  6. Priyank

    You will find they use Hindustani which has more than a liberal dose of Urdu thrown in. People in the Hindi belt commonly speak like that but people from deep Bihar and UP use tatsam-isms that will fly over your head with equal speed 🙂 So trust me this is a much preferred version of Hindi to use on TV.

  7. ‘Whose formats…’, of course, refers to contests and not competitors as my poor placement of the adjectival clause may suggest. Apologies.

  8. In the US, Fox News comes pretty close I think. Interesting angle regarding switching off the idiot box and read instead – hadn’t looked at it that way. Thanks!

  9. I do not have the courage to watch Hindi news channels! 🙂 The idea that India is a melting-pot seems to have become a perfect excuse for the khichadi of every language…

    BTW, how do you rate the graphic, Prof Artist? How many marks do I get out of 10? 🙂

  10. ROTFL! 😀

    #4 is a subtle, advanced technique that wouldn’t be easily grasped by newbies. That will be reserved for the ‘Advanced Rulebook’. 🙂

  11. Oh! :-:

    They’ve been splashing Obama’s topless vacation photographs and magazine covers based on those photographs lately, hence I was…distracted…:-)

  12. That post is Hilarious Mahandra,
    Some of these blunders apply to US news stations as well. The value of journalism suffers from the continuous money crunch. I now see mostly regurgitated crap from AP and Reuters syndicated across all networks with said outdated video loops and all sorts of non-information.

  13. You summed it up nicely. I have a couple more.

    1. Brush up on your adjectives. Any noun must be accompanies by a few of the adjectives that make it seem like the worst/best/craziest/secularist/shamefulest action that man could ever contemplate.

    2. The times of impassioned news readers is gone. News readers must be seasoned actors able to accompany the news items with adequately exaggerated expressions so that the dumb (eveyone in India to be assumed having IQ less than 25) viewers can better comprehend what you are saying, just in case they missed the adjectives we talked about in (1).

  14. Yeah, I observed a noticeable decline in the quality of news on US networks during my two long stints – first during ’01-’02 and next in ’04-’06. Still compared with what is dished out on Indian channels, it is still, alas, better.

  15. He he he! Yes, an anchor must be a ‘Master of Adjectives’ (no qualification in journalism required), and a Diploma in Fine Arts/Acting will be an added plus! 🙂

  16. Nice nice! With this rulebook those tv people don’t need much IQ to continue their business. Of late watching the news has become a terrible bore. What I find most irritating is the repetition of news, I mean the same thing said in a different way at least five times in two minutes! And ofcourse stale visuals repeated again and again and again! Unbearable.

  17. I used to watch these Tv channels in India and I agree with you on all points. I dont think most of these channels are worth of being taken seriously anymore.
    Thanks for your comment on my blog. Will check your blog more soon.

  18. I absolutely love your observations.. This shows a good deal of observation. The post couldn’t have come out better. abt point no 10, they just don’t work hard enough anytime and zoom in and out the same scenes with a special red circle to denote some XYZ person in a very hazy frame…

    Also, Shefaly’s observations are quite apt. the ill-fitting jackets bit is right on. But the award goes to point number 4, putting words in the mouth of everyone, be it your correspondent or your ‘special guest’

  19. 😀 If you want me to be honest, you get 1 mark for creativity, 1 mark for use of technology, but 8 marks for appropriate usage of the picture.

  20. Hi Shefaly,

    Sanskritised Hindustani (which we call Hindi) or doordarshan Hindi is much preferable to me because it is easier to understand. While Marathi has lots of Farsi loanwords, it is still mostly based on Sanskrit afterall.

  21. Hey, thanks Dev. I agree…they cause more misinformation than information! 🙂 Thanks for visiting, I too need to spend more time checking out your blog.

  22. Priyank

    Whenever we do meet, I shall do my best to speak with you in my best ‘tatsam’ Hindi. It is accent free and very clear mainly because I spoke Marathi as my first language as a child. Now all that is gone although I can read and understand. I recall, from many years ago, a Malayalam-speaking friend and colleague, who, when he heard me speak in Hindi, used to say: “Aye, baat kar, samaachaar mat parh!” 🙂

  23. Word. It’s so terrible but in India I watch HBO…

    number 1 I hate the most, it’s a pain to watch, wonder what they call breaking news if it happens.

    P.

  24. Hahahaha..this is funny! And so true…stumbled in and think I might keep on stumbling in!!! 🙂

  25. Uve suddenly become prolific in writing

    This is a great assessment on sensationalist press in india , and u have a good starting blueprint for the newbee producer

    The most notorious are India tv, India news etc
    most of them telecast free on dd direct dth
    which is supposed to support quality programing

    may i ask – have u seen the crime beat programs that are aired at nite – they can beat any masala film Zeenews has the most amusing presenter!
    They looks more like a criminal than criminals.

    or the saas bahu reviews aired at noon ?

    they are all hilarious (Ps haven’t seen both for a long time since i cut off my tatasky)

  26. Prax, I’m quite unpredictable right? 🙂

    Thanks for your comments. I have not summoned the courage to watch other news channels or crime beat programs! Maybe I need to widen my scope of humor! 🙂

  27. you left out the adjective/adverb dictionary 🙂 no news room is complete without one.
    he was brutally beaten… is there a gentle way of beating someone up

    i have stopped watching pvt news channels post 26/11. get my news from dd – realise that other parts of india exist – and it is not so hard on my ears 🙂

  28. Yes, I missed the adjective dictionary but my astute readers did add them in the comments!

    Maybe I should check out DD now. 🙂

  29. was at a SoHO today with a professioanl collaborator. India TV was on
    and this was the breaking news super on:
    gyarah log pakdenge bhagte bhoot ki langoti
    on a ghost at one of the teerth dhams !

    i kid you not — that was the news.

  30. Looks like Harini caught the Indiatv bug
    once while channel surfing i noticed that they dedicated half an hr for a khatarnak kida – jo sabko lagta hai – as their headline shouted
    guess what it turned out to be ?
    🙂

  31. Hahaha! Nice one! I happen to be a newbie in the blogosphere, but have been doing a fair bit of Media-bitching myself. Primarily about the biased reports, and the want to “create” news rather than “cover” it. All for the TRP ratings, as you rightly said.

    And did I tell you that I was considering Journalism for my master’s myself? 😛

  32. Glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, media-bashing is quite popular with bloggers, I tried to take a different approach. 🙂

    You didn’t leave your blog URL, Adi, else I could’ve checked out your blog as well. Journalism for your Masters…hmm, remember my Rulebook and you’ll do well! 😉

  33. I thought I did. I was logged in while commenting here. No idea why it doesn’t connect you to my blog. Anyway, here is my URL: http://ceaselesscriticism.wordpress.com/

    As for Journalism, I sure am not entering the field because I would love to follow those rules. I will do my bit to make sure that these rules are not followed. 😛 Applying to a course in Communication as well. Need to see what will click. Anyway, the Media bashing is here to stay, I guess. It is too much fun for people to stop. Besides, the Media asks for it. LOL!

  34. i was thinking something serious on lines of cdc or some vector borne disease etc

    u will laugh – i certainly did expect them to dedicate half an hour to ….
    infidelity

  35. Glad to have checked your blog(though I did not read the film reviews as yet as I am not all that into movies). Will keep coming back for more once in a while. Do check out my blog whenever you can. 🙂

    P.S: I had to sign out and sign back in this time before posting. I think my blog link will work now. 🙂

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