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 The date of the video does not matter; having an outdated video is better than no video at all.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.

This entry was posted in Humor, India, media and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • 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?

    Priyank.

  • 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): http://tinyurl.com/cba54p

  • 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.

    P.

  • 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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