Points of View: News Channels' Budget Mantra

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | July 06, 2009
Both general news channels and business channels bank upon their TG-specific Budget programmes and expert panellists to crack the budget for the masses

Be it general news channels or business channels, all have announced special segments and programmes, where expert panelists will be seen dissecting the Budget.

However, the big question is whether news channels succeed in decoding the Budget for the masses, and whether they are able to present an analysis that is free of jargon and confusing statistics? This is what some industry professionals had to say when we approached them with the query.

Dilip Venkatraman, chief marketing officer, IBN Network, and chief operating officer, IBN Focus

The Union Budget is not merely a dossier of numbers, but a reflection of the hopes and dreams of every Indian. Various experts on news channels help viewers decode the complicated budget policies and figures, demystifying it for different sections of society, keeping the common man at the centre of it all. Keeping these facets in mind, IBN18 will cover the Budget with a holistic approach and will highlight the expectations of the masses.

Our editorial team consisting of Rajdeep Sardesai, Senthil Chengalvarayan, Shereen Bhan, Vivian Fernandes and Udayan Mukherjee, along with various industry experts, will decode what the Budget means for the various industries and sectors, and also simplify it for the common man. Continuing with the inclusive approach of the channel, shows like 'Axe the Tax', 'Budget on Campus' and 'If I were FM' will provide a platform for citizens and the youth of India to express their opinions.

The IBN7 budget programming will juxtapose the election manifesto of the government along with the expectations of the 'aam aadmi', and will gauge how much of the people's expectations have been met. Properties like 'Badlega India', 'Yuva', 'Agar Main FM Hota', 'Amma Ji Ka Budget', 'Corporate India' and 'Ladies Budget' will help bring together different sections of society, such as senior citizens, the youth and women, to give a 360-degree perspective. Experts will analyse the Budget 2009 for the citizens in their language.

Samir Ahluwalia, editor, Zee Business
The Budget on Zee Business is done with the single objective of decoding economic jargon and presenting before viewers how the Budget impacts their lives. In that sense, the Budget programming on the channel is planned and executed keeping in mind just one word -- Impact. And yes, we do succeed in tearing apart each word presented by the finance minister with the help of an extensive research team, and exclusive tie-ups with leading experts across different verticals. Take taxation, prices, policy announcements or the markets; each subject is backed by a leading expert from the field. With use of extensive graphics and touch-screen technology, we translate the Budget in the best possible format and in an easy-to-understand language.

Sathish Anand, chief executive officer, Vishva Media and Media Consultant

Yes, news channels do succeed in decoding the budget for the masses to some extent, but most channels lose the plot in analysing the budget.

To be fair to them, I must say that most channels do very well in the way they package their programmes in the run-up to the Budget. They are quite systematic and comprehensive in putting together the viewpoints of various sections of society, particularly their perceived target audience.

A lot depends on the panellists that you put together for the discussion. The channel has to understand that discussing the country's Budget is a serious issue, and needs to put together a worthy panel. Many a time, we have seen industry captains hijacking the discussion to put forth demands pertaining to their industry alone, or analysing the Budget only from the point of view of their industry or personal interests. Similar is the case with political people on the panel. They support or summarily reject the Budget, depending on their political leanings. The Union Budget of a country of our size is bound have its hits and misses. The panellists and the anchor need to analyse it in a wholesome way, taking the broader/macro view into perspective.

I wish the channels would resist the temptation of trying to get controversial statements from marginal panellists, and focus on analysing the Budget for what it is worth. It is, therefore, imperative that the channels put together a panel of eminent economists, who would not only be able decipher the nuances of the Budget proposals, but also analyse its cause and effect.

Raj Halve, principal consultant - Samara Capital
Within the broad categories of general news and business news, each channel has its positioning and target audience, which substantially impact the nature of Budget coverage. And with the sometimes mindless proliferation of all news channels, the positioning has become more nuanced over the years.

As a consumer of media and various channels, my expectations from each channel are quite different. To take an example (and these names reflect my personal biases), if I were looking for serious coverage and analysis, and in-depth impact assessment, I would probably meander towards a CNBC TV 18 or an ET Now. Sure, these channels' coverage would not be completely free of jargon, but I would live with that as I am expecting serious analysis.

On the other hand, if I happened to be watching the Budget analysis with family and wanted a 'general view' on the key policies, a general channel like Times Now or Headlines Today would do fine.

The concern one has is that channels sometimes migrate towards extremes: such detailed analysis which is of scant interest to most 'non-chief financial officer' human beings, or such 'dumbed down' stuff that other than blinding my optical nerves with 'Breaking News' flashes, delivers little else.

In summary, non-jargonisation is not really the issue; making it understandable to your target audience is!

Vivek Malhotra, vice-president, marketing, UTVi
We are going out with an inspiring branding for the Union Budget, coded 'Target 10%'. It is an appeal to go that extra inch and to convert our efforts into an impressive growth for all, a growth at a time when the world is looking at India as an agent of growth.

Accordingly, our product has been designed to be extremely inclusive. More than the Budget announcement, it is the implication and the end impact that relates to our viewer.

Given the response to our line-up, we would assume our success has been steered by a huge interactivity quotient. It has been divided on three distinct pillars of Corporate India, Consumer and the Youth, and the treatment has been differently tuned to ensure that each segment gets to identify and benefit.

Our special initiative People's Budget focuses on 'What does the Budget mean to you? How does it affect your life?' Budget Express visits the smaller and lesser known businessmen to gauge what they are demanding from the Union Budget, and how their lives are affected.

Activating the viewer sentiment, there is a special project, 'Ideas for FM' where UTVi travels across India to meet people's representatives, interact with these MPs and their voters to find the real issues for the finance minister before the Budget.

On the corporate side, we are aggressively showcasing the view of the industry in a special series, 'Chambers Speak'. Hundred things crying to be done is a unique format driven by Mini Menon that is bringing critical issues to light -- issues that, if addressed, can get our efficiencies to a new high.

As a brand, we have believed in differentiating our content and bringing it close to the viewer. Therefore, we have expanded the scale tremendously by putting together a 1000-student interface on July 6 at the National Centre for Performing Arts (Mumbai). With the FM's announcement in the backdrop, we will witness the B School students interacting with industry stalwarts, and with names that have converted business dreams into reality.

Incidentally, we launched our programming and the marketing campaign with top CMDs of the public sector. 'Leading India Forward' saw these icons of sustainable business growth launch the UTVi 'Target 10%' logo.

Decoding the Budget will finally be a function of how well we understand issues, how well we connect with them and whether our treatment is inclusive. We are the only business news channel that has built the bulk of its following in the C&S (cable and satellite) 25-44 segment, unlike the traditional 45+ bulk, and the key somewhere has been in keeping it simple and making it relevant.

(Points of View (POV) is a regular column which carries opinions of industry professionals on a current topic of discussion in the advertising, media and marketing industry.)

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