From the Viewsroom

Television killed news

Tina Edwin | Updated on March 02, 2018

The public interest matters more than what interests the public

There is consensus that much of the reporting by television news channels on the circumstances of the death of actress Sridevi was in extremely poor taste, baselessly speculative and shamelessly voyeuristic. As actor Farhan Akhtar tweeted “there is no bottom in the barrel of the graceless”.

But this is not the first time the mysterious death of a celebrity has been covered in this manner. Mysterious deaths of the celebrities across the world is not uncommon — in recent years, Whitney Houston and George Michael were among those found dead in circumstances that raised much suspicion. Yet, the mainstream media in those cases was quite restrained.

Every so often we hear news strategists claim that people do not know what they should read or watch. But the question remains: Did the news channels need to feed the public putrid and insensitive information?

It is true that people enjoy salacious gossip, but when news channels make a tamasha of a tragedy to keep people hooked, it is journalism at its worst. It kills credibility of the channel in particular and of journalism in general. Viewer fatigue with such coverage can be gauged from reactions across the social media.

The combination of viewer fatigue and the rapid rise of the digital medium as a source of news could have adverse consequences for news channels. Plunging credibility and falling viewership will at some stage affect revenue streams. Smart advertisers will quickly move to other genres of television channels and digital media to reach out to their audience. Therefore, for the sake of their own survival, tv news channels need to distinguish between what the public is interested in, such as celebrity news, and news that is in the public interest such as multi-crore bank scams, and maintain a bias towards the latter.

The primary function of journalism is to inform people of the various developments that affect their lives.

Senior Deputy Editor

Published on March 01, 2018

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