News channels to 'keep it simple' this Budget

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | June 25, 2009
With Union Budget 2009 nearing, the news channels are doling out special properties to woo the viewers

Following a lull that surrounded the news channels after the high voltage drama encompassing the General Elections, the news channels are ready with a platter of new programming around one of the most significant events of the year - the Budget. With the Congress led UPA winning the General Elections in a clean sweep, all eyes are now on the first major policy announcement from the new government, the Union Budget 2009, which unfolds on July 6.

While continuing to air regular news programming, business news channels will extensively report on the budget and its impact across sectors, industries and audiences. Even general news channels are gearing up for the big event. The mantra is to focus on translating the budget coverage to the simplest form possible for its audience.

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CNBC Universe, which includes CNBC TV18, CNBC Awaaz and, has launched a comprehensive programming on this year's Budget, called 'The Big B'. Under the umbrella programming, all three will try to capture the essence of the event through various programmes and interactive tools. The budget theme of CNBC Universe revolves around the question 'Will this be the Big B - the Biggest Budget ever?' and will showcase views and expectations of the markets, industry, policy watchers, consumers and taxpayers.

Talking to afaqs!, Neel Chowdhury, vice-president, marketing, CNBC TV18 and CNBC Awaaz, says, "People have very high expectations from this budget and we'll focus on the Budget in a fresh manner, breaking it down to a simpler format for our viewers. This time, our focus will not be on policy alone but we will try to find out where India can go from here. It will have the ground reality, views and expectations of the country. We will have various formats, such as debates, candid discussions, analysis and behind the scenes shows."

He adds that the group aims at a contemporary and simplistic approach, minus the jargons. "We aim to make it an easily understandable budget."

Some of the properties planned by CNBC TV18 are - India Economy Debates with Karan Thapar, 21st Century - 100 days and beyond; Imagining The Indian Economy; Past FM's, Present Budget which will have the likes of Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha sizing up this year's Budget; Young Turks In The Government; Budget Behind The Scenes and Budget Gets Real. Apart from these, the channel will also feature segments and vignettes such as Industry Wishlist, If I Were FM, What The World Thinks, Budget Trivia, Tax Minute, Budget Barometer Poll and Economic Survey Special.

The lineup of CNBC Awaaz will include Budget Caravan, which involves travelling across the country to gauge people's expectations from the Budget; Budget Expectations will aim at determining the expectations of the people, industry and sectors with regard to markets, commodities and personal finance; Tax Express will have tax guru Subhash Lakhotia travelling across seven cities and discussing tax implications of the Budget; Yashwant Watch will see Yashwant Sinha sharing insights on the Budget; Har Ghar Ki Ummeed; Budget Aur Youth will see a panel of financial experts meeting a group of youth to gauge their expectations.

Sanjay Pugalia, editor-in-chief, CNBC Awaaz, says, "Apart from the special properties, we have more than 24 half an hour political discussions lined up, along with 16 panel discussions and eight interviews. The approach and language of our shows will make things simple and relatable."

With Awaaz being a consumer channel, there will be a significant amount of news dedicated to the Budget. One-third of the news will be dedicated to budget related happenings. Every day, the channel will air two half-an-hour shows and about 20-30 per cent of the top stories will be related to the budget.

NDTV Profit also has a comprehensive lineup of budget special shows that will be based on discussions and on ground activities with experts and commoners expressing their views on the budget.

Currently, about 70-80 per cent of the channel's programming focuses on the Budget, but on the D-day it, will have 100 per cent focus on Budget related news. Keeping its target audience in mind, which is a mix of investors and opinion makers, the programming mix on NDTV Profit will focus on what kind of stocks will get affected due to the Budget and at the same time, how will companies react to the announcement.

Shivnath Thukral, managing editor, NDTV Profit, says, "We are focussing closely on the tax related issues since the Budget can directly address that. Also, another important thing will be to focus on corporate demands since the Budget largely focuses on their needs and concerns."

He further adds, "Ours is a mix of stock, macro and micro issues. We plan to think from the viewers' perspective and what they want to know from this year's Budget." The lineup of shows on the channel include Deloitte presents Budget Watch, India's Budget, Tax Round table, We the SME's, Budget for Bankers, The Lobby, Sector Watch, Budget for Investors, Ghar Ghar Ka Budget and Your Taxes. Also, there will be two minute vignettes - CEO Wish List, Desh Ki Dhadkan and Tax in 2 Minutes, highlighting the expectations of various stakeholders.

With business channels being niche products, their competency is largely dependent on the interpretation and analytical skills of the presenters and experts. Thukral believes that in order to stand out from rest of the channels in the genre, one needs to go more in-depth so that issues are understood better and the concerns can be put forward in a more detailed fashion.

UTVi also has its programming in place for the upcoming Budget. Some of the shows on the channel include Budget Appreciation or Apprehension, a daily news section on the expectations from the budget; Business of India, which will analyse what each zone of the country wants from the budget; Speak Up, a discussion forum; Economy Watch, talking about the hopes and aspirations of the people of India; Talk Back will have the economists, politicians and corporate biggies sharing their expectations; Budget Demystified, where interesting trivia on the Union Budget will be shared; Smart Money will have five women making their household budgets for a week with Rs 1,000; Reading between the lines will have the politics of business as its theme; Chambers Speak will have CII, FICCI and Assocham giving their take on the impending Budget; SME Roundtable; Live telecast of Budget 2009; The Budget Blueprint; New Kids on the Block will see if the expectations of young CEOs have been fulfilled; Sectoral Reports, a panel discussion and special report on each major sector of the economy; On the tracks, expectations from the Railway Budget; Business on Rail and The R Day, a low-down on the Railway Budget.

With its well-charted programming strategy, UTVi attempts to target various segments of the society - across regions and demographics. Vivek Malhotra, vice-president, marketing, UTVi, says, "Our focus is business - but our target audience encompasses not only the 40+ male investor but also the younger audience. Women form a major part of our viewers. In fact, we have worked out our programming in such a manner that it caters to the needs of India Inc. as well as having a consumer focus."

He adds that the channel is putting together a 1,000 strong student interface on the Budget day. "To give it the stature, we have initiated an alliance with NCPA, Mumbai. In the backdrop of the finance minister's speech, the youth shall interact with those who have built their own enterprises and redefined businesses across sectors," he informs.

Zee Business has Beti, Bahu aur Budget; Budget Yatra; Meri Job and Mera Budget in association with in the pipeline.

It is not only the business news channels that are eyeing this event, the general interest news channels have equally exhaustive lists of programmes.

The channels are expecting that the special programming on the news channels will grab more eyeballs. Gautam Mukerjea, marketing director, NewsX, says, "News viewership is event led and special days always result in increase across genres. We expect Budget to do what the General Election programming did for the channels.

"NewsX budget programming will concentrate on issues that affect citizens directly and not just the big corporates. We will also give the viewer a perspective on our country's spends as compared to different countries," says Mukerjea of NewsX.

On how the Budget coverage on NewsX will be different from the other players, he says, "We have on board an ex-business editor who will give in depth insights on the Budget and economics."

The IBN18 Network (CNN-IBN, IBN7 and IBN-Lokmat) has lined up a programming schedule for covering the Union Budget. The focus of the network will be on what the Budget means for the common man, the business leaders and India.

It's the 'Budget of Hope' for CNN-IBN and to make sure that the channel hits the bull's eye, it has launched three major programmes for its audiences - AXE the Tax, Budget on Campus and Budget of Hope.

Radhakrishnan Nair, executive editor, CNN IBN says, "This budget is expected to be a window of opportunity during the economic slowdown. It will be a blueprint for what this government can do for the country.

Therefore, the name, 'Budget of Hope'."

Axe the Tax, which is in its third year, is an important property for the channel and focuses on tax laws that need to be changed or modified. According to Nair, the show has been instrumental in bringing a "small but significant" change in the tax law for senior citizens. Budget of Hope, another big property of the channel, will look at the five things the government should do in this budget - address affordable housing, lower interest rates, job market, and uplifting of urban and rural poor.

The channel will also air Face The Budget, Devil's Advocate, Pre-Budget Show and Budget Day. CNN-IBN plans take the Budget beyond corporates, "to the middle class urban India and present an opportunity for all.

We will talk about small things that could help Indians dream big," adds Nair.

About the Budget coverage by the CNN-IBN Network, Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief, IBN18 Network, says, "CNN-IBN's special budget programming has been designed in a way to benefit all strata of the society, from the common man to industry giants. CNN-IBN, with its finest experts, will simplify and decode the Budget's effect and impact for our viewers."

IBN7 has Budget' 09 Dreamz Unlimited, Economic Survey Special, Hot Seat - Budget Special , Yuva - Budget Special and a live telecast of the Budget Day speech by the FM. It will be followed by the expert analysis.

IBN-Lokmat has Budget Chaupal, Humcha Apeksha, Factoids (trivia on the Railway Budget and Union Budget) and Mamta Express in its kitty.

For NDTV India, it's the aam aadmi route. The channel intends to focus on the common man and the housewife, those who are not very conversant with budget lingo. Sameer Kapoor, chief executive officer, NDTV India, says, "We will focus on two main points demystifying the budget and the terminology used. What are the key elements of the budget? How do these affect a common man? Our basic focus will be on translating each element to its simplest form."

The channel has announced two shows, Great Indian Bazaar and Sabse Bada Rupaiya, and will soon be launching other Budget special properties.

The other channel from the NDTV stable, NDTV 24X7, has shows such as Make My Day, where Prannoy Roy will talk on how the FM can make your day; The Revival Budget will take the views from the industry, stock market experts, economists and the 'aam aadmi' on the Budget; Your Taxes will be a debate show; The Game Changers will have members of the government discussing about the upcoming event; In Dear Pranab Babu, audiences will tell the FM what they want to see most in the Budget; Your Money will take a view of the future and everyone's money; Make a Wish and From CM to FM.