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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  • Very fun­ny stuff. Haven’t been to India in sev­er­al years now but this brought back some very vivid mem­o­ries

  • Oh, you’ve been to India? Fun­ny how some things nev­er change over time eh. Thanks for drop­ping by again!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • BTW how come that politi­cian has not yet been booked for ‘inde­cent pub­lic expo­sure’ by now?? Hain bhai?

  • Mahen­dra

    I think a politician’s body is an old tool in the body politic. Some­thing tells me you will find this old post of mine titled ‘Body Politic’ rel­e­vant (and the expla­na­tion plau­si­ble):

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • Dev

    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.

  • 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.


  • sonyab

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

  • 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)

  • 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 🙂

  • Isnt it good to be unpre­dictable?

    Nyways im not com­plain­ing cause ur one of my fav blog­gers around !

  • 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.

  • Prax

    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 ?

  • Adi

    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? 😛

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