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2014: A newsy year for news broadcasters

The year 2014 was a roller-coaster ride for the news broadcasters. While they picked up the windfall of political advertising first due to the general and then some state assembly elections, the threat of the 12-minute ad cap always loomed large nearby.

The genre also saw a lot of action in the regional space as Network18 (CNBC Bajar and ETV), Zee Media Corporation (ZMCL) and clutch of other companies launched regional news and current affairs channels.

In terms of positioning also, Hindi news channels, including India TV and IBN7, became more focused on serious news, while many broadcasters went for brand revamps.

And while there were too many exits and new appointments in the news genre, TV18 saw huge exodus as the top management as well as editors of almost all the channels quit during the year in quick succession post the takeover by Mukesh Ambani.

TVP takes a look back at the key news stories of 2014 from the news television genre.

The Mukesh Ambani factor

Within a month of the formation of the NDA government, India’s foremost billionaire Mukesh Ambani decided to gobble up Raghav Bahl’s Network18 and TV18 Broadcast.

Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) board approved funding of Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion) to Independent Media Trust (IMT), of which RIL is the sole beneficiary, for taking over Network18 in May 2014.

With Ambani stepping in, the company saw the top management exit—group CEO B Saikumar, COO Ajay Chako, CFO RDS Bawa, and then the man himself, Raghav Bahl, along with wife Ritu Kapur.

This was followed by the exit of editors—Rajdeep Sardesai with wife Sagarika Ghosh, Nikhil Wagle (IBN Lokmat), Vinay Tiwari (IBN7)—and senior editorial staff including Bhupendra Chaubey.

During the year, the group also saw exits of IBN7 editor Ashutosh, who left in January to join Aam Aadmi Party, Network18 CEO news media Sanjay Dua, Network18 CEO of digital Durga Raghunath and CTO Piyush Gupta, among others.

NBA’s legal battle against ad cap

The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) continued fighting the ad cap case against the TRAI’s 12-minute ad cap diktat, first in the TDSAT, and later in the Delhi High Court. As of now, the case is being heard in the HC.

Channel launches

Network18 was not just in the news for people movement. It also launched maximum channels during the year. While TV18 launched India’s first Gujarati business news channel CNBC Bajar, Network18-controlled ETV launched news channels in Bengal (ETV Bangla News), Haryana and Himachal Pradesh (ETV Haryana Himachal), Gujarat (ETV Gujarati News) and Karnataka (ETV Kannada).

ZMCL also launched Zee Kalinga, an Odia news channel, and re-launched Maurya TV as Zee Puruvaiya. During the year, it also re-branded Zee News UP and Uttarakhand as Zee Sangam.

Meanwhile, NDTV adopted a hybrid model for its loss-making business news channel NDTV Profit. From 17 March, NDTV Profit became NDTV Prime in the evening and on weekends, while during market hours, NDTV Profit continued to offer business news and analysis as usual.

Among other launches were News Nation’s news channel for Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, TV9’s news channel for Andhra Pradesh and Ramoji Rao-controlled Enadu Television’s separate news channel for Telangana, ETV Telangana. Enadu TV also rebranded ETV2 to ETV Andhra Pradesh.

The year also saw launch of new regional players including Bhaskar News (Hindi), News7 (Tamil), and TV New (Malayalam).

MCCS’ Punjabi debacle

Media Content and Communication Services (MCCS), which runs ABP News (Hindi), ABP Majha (Marathi) and ABP Ananda (Bengali), finally got the licence from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to launch a Punjabi news channel, after one and a half years.

The name of the channel was to be ABP Sanjha. The company had already put in place the infrastructure and had started uploading news on its YouTube channel. However, in a bizarre move, four months after getting the licence, the management told the 180+ employees that the plan of launching the channel has been put on hold and offered them a three-month severance package citing that the current environment was not conducive for the launch.

Talent movement

It was not only the top brass of Network18/ TV18 that moved during 2014. There was a lot of people movement which surprised, and many times shocked, the industry.

The year began with Ashutosh moving to join AAP. Later in the year, Raghav Bahl, along with wife Ritu Kapur, launched digital news venture Quintillion Media.

Aroon Purie-controlled India Today group also saw a lot of action. Firstly, Karan Thapar joined the company, and then came the news of former Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta joining as vice chairman and editor-in-chief. However, Gupta decided to step down within two months.

Headlines Today saw the exit of its managing editor Nalin Mehta, a position, which was later filled by IBN7’s Vinay Tewari.

Rajdeep Sardesai also joined TV Today group as consulting editor and primetime anchor, while wife Sagrika Ghosh joined Times of India.

Former Zee Media CEO Alok Agrawal joined Network18 as group COO, while ZMCL appointed Digicall Global operations director Ashish Pandit as CEO.

Former CNN IBN CEO Dilip Venkatraman, along with wife Savvy Venkatraman, joined ITV Network as group COO of strategy and business development, and group chief marketing officer respectively.

Meanwhile, after MK Anand moved from Disney UTV to Times Television Network, Avinash Kaul, who was serving as CEO of Times Now, ET Now and Zoom, moved to TV18 as CEO of IBN18.

With Anand taking up the role of MD and CEO of Times Television Network, Sunil Lulla also decided to move to the advertising world and took up the role of chairman and MD at Grey Group India.

Sanjay Dua, meanwhile, joined ITV Network as NewsX CEO and group chief revenue officer. ITV Network had earlier elevated RK Arora to the position of group CEO, but he soon quit to join News Nation in the same capacity.

The position was vacated by Shailesh Kumar (CEO and editor-in-chief), who moved to Naveen Jindal’s Focus group as managing editor of regional channels.

Focus Group also appointed former MCCS COO Neeraj Sanan as group CEO.

Not just general news channels, even business news channel Bloomberg TV saw the exit of its editor-in-chief Vivek Law. The channel later appointed Siddharth Zarabi to take control.

In the regional space, Nikhil Wagle joined Mi Marathi as consultant.

India TV: Being serious

The welcome change in the Hindi news space was that the genre started moving towards serious news, shedding frivolous and trivial content. The change was led by Rajat Sharma’s India TV, a channel which was earlier blamed for introducing the sensationalism model.

The channel hired former News24 managing editor Ajit Anjum in the same capacity after its editorial director QW Naqvi quit the company.

Regional newscasters form AINBA

Even as the NBA continued to represent private television news and current affairs broadcasters, the regional and small news channels joined hands to form a separate outfit called the All India News Broadcasters Association.

The first-of-its-kind association of regional news players was formed with an aim to work towards creating a level playing field in the country on a par with the national news channels. Apart from focusing on the problems of the industry, the association will work towards ensuring ethical journalism, curbing paid news and ensuring guidelines for self-regulation. It will also create a platform for news syndication and exchange among member organisations collective marketing and distribution.

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