Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Can't feel it... so far

"We asked a few people about the new English news channel Times Now and here's what they said..."

Silence for 5 seconds

"Have you heard of a news channel leaving people speechless??"

That was an ad for Times Now ("Feel the News") airing on Go 92.5 FM over and over again as I made my way home. Well, I did tune in but am far from speechless. In fact, I have quite a bit to say.

I know Times Now has been on air for just a few hours but their promos have been 'barking' for a while now. And in light of Malcolm Gladwell's 'Blink' I think first impressions must be taken note of. So here are mine.

The Promises
For weeks, Times Now promos have been promising: no bullshit, no yak yak, news of relevance to you, etc etc etc. So what is their idea of what news is relevant to you and me?

8 pm
While all other news channels were discussing the airport modernisation bids a guy in a grey suit and pink tie on Times Now gravely holds forth on Iran.

Soon after CNN IBN started flashing 'Airport staff to go on strike from 10 am tomorrow' and minutes later NDTV followed. No update on Times Now ticker.

9 pm
It's Newshour with Arnab Goswami and Mini Menon. But first, some loving and lingering shots of our shiny new studio.

Now, for the airport bids and other important stories but first, we must tom-tom our 'exclusive': The Anatomy of a Killing.

Which is? An audio transcript of Abu Salem planning a murder. It is so shocking and chilling that several page and Bollywood personalities have to be interviewed to tell us how shocking and chilling it is. Such as Anil Dharker, Kabir Bedi and Shyam Benegal.

OK, now we can get on with the news. But only for a bit. After that we will get back to Abu Salem and then discuss what we just showed you sometime ago with the help of experts who are with us in the studio.

Experts in what? Appearing on television. Yes, on DAY ONE they had who else but the all-weather, all-season, all-topic, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-in-one and one-in-all studio guest: Mahesh Bhatt.

So much for Arnab's promise of 'no talking heads.."

The Questions
These might just be first day hiccups. Things will probably get better. The weekend shows seem very promising!

But right now it looks like this: You're cooking a magnificent meal for 18 months. All the fancy china is in place. The guests have assembled. But when you lift the lid the food is just OK. Nothing extraordinary.

Firstly, why the Abu Salem story. Is anyone shocked to know that mafia dons are 'heartless', use bad language and order the hitmen to kill anyone who comes in the way?

Secondly, must a news channel have a 'sensational' story on the day of its launch? Even if the story is irrelavant on that particular day?? When HT used similar tactics for its launch edition in Mumbai (the Salman-Aishwarya transcripts), the paper was soundly criticised by Times.

Of course, the Abu Salem tapes are apparently 'genuine' - they have been submitted in court as proof so there are no 'privacy' issues. But the question is: who cares? He has been extradited and is now behind bars.

The real fugitive from justice now is Dawood Ibrahim...

On the plus side
Times Now is a polished product - the graphics, music and overall packaging is pretty cool. Although some might call it 'dhinchak'.

Arnab did a good job of pinning down aviation minister Praful Patel (poor fellow must be exhausted with all the 'exclusive' interviews he was giving on the same day within minutes of each other!).

There are some interesting shows and 'big stories' being advertised in the days to come...

Times Now's stated vision is to: "Create the second generation of TV news in the broadcast space....With a focus on involving the consumer more closely in the news experience, the channel’s unique programming wheel blends the urgent news needs of the urbanite".

Well, good luck! On my part I shall keep tuning in and let you know when I 'feel' something!


  1. toi sucks. It only knocking & licking the doors of P3 ppl. and zoom proves it!!

  2. i dont completely agree with rahul .....but zoom definately sucks......hope times now is more meaningful....but i cant understand why they are starting a news channel when there are already tooo many......

  3. Hi Rashmi,
    I haven't yet got a chance to see The NOW channel.. Even if I may get time to watch it, I don't know if I would be satisfied, since I am an anti-Times person. :)
    There is a new media basher blog in town.. you must have heard of it. If you haven't here it is - I am not promoting this blog, but just dropped in that and found the author to be a big basher of all media channels.. I was wondering who that could be? Any guesses?

  4. To add to it they had roped in Salem's lawyer and asked him questions like,"What do you think about the issue, not as a lawyer but from your heart?"
    This is a totally absurd question as a lawyer of a hardened criminal would know most of the details and not get emotionally moved by some tapes.
    Contentwise I dont think Times now is going to be any better than Star news or Aaj Tak as the times group policy is to serve mirch masala to it's customers. Only CNN-IBN can offer some competition to NDTV!

  5. I havent got a chance to see thsi channel, only heard the ad on radio. I am sure they'll make us feel something 'else'. hehe. that is all TOI can ever come up with, titilation and such nonsense...

    I totally agree with Rahul, zoom really sucks and that is all TOI can ever produce for its readers, sadsome poeple still read the newsless paper. I will definitely not pay for or watch this channel. cnn ibn is definitely much better choice.

  6. "8 pm
    While all other news channels were discussing the airport modernisation bids a guy in a grey suit and pink tie on Times Now gravely holds forth on Iran."

    Think you missed this one... I saw the reporter right outside the Prime Minister's house here in Delhi giving an update on the issue.
    Compared to CNN-IBN on day one, Times managed to rope in better guests. Point being, its way too early. One thing that stands out is that its not a younger NDTV clone.

  7. I guess people are tired of watching the so called different news channels.It's time we have a channel on news which never makes into mainstream media.

  8. I am not getting Times Now in Vizag...though I did get to see the Leo Press Ad. Times thrives on sensationalism really, don't expect anything better from 'em - even if Preeti (remember her frm the CNBC Prod Team) is one of the biggies there. Am forwarding your post to her ;)

  9. one thing i didnt like bout times now is the "whats on TOI today" section with Dina Vakil coming and reading the paper.i dont see a news channel so that i can know what they write in the newspapers.....but i think i still like th channel

  10. We have NDTV clones being presented as nearly Pulitzer Winning Jurnos..Plz Give as a Break.

    This Times channel is slated to be doomed..You cannot build a channel of some Integrity just by poaching people or putting upfront inexperienced Print Jurnos.

    Its much easier running MTV as Mr Sunil Lulla will realise.. The contents really Suck...What next??

    Specials on Chhaya Momayas & Queenie Dhondies of the World

  11. "Another first" as Arnab claims on his 9'o clock show " What news channel will tell you: which is the big news tomorrow". This was one part which made Times Now looked like another of those soap opera airing channels

  12. TOI or as it is popularly known as Toilet Paper of India is a blot on the name of journalism. The paper has maintained a lead by serving to its audience a curry of naked skin, cartoons and other masala. It is another gravestone for Indian media that the sh** paper is opening a tv channel.

    The last thing that u can expect from TOI is fair, unbiased news. The paper liberally mixes its anti-national and anti-hindu views in its news coverage. I appreciated jam for its hip content for young audience. It is really sad to know that u as its editor appreciate TOI.

  13. @ Hampi

    ^_^ lol

    and btw why I hate toI

  14. Here's what I saw on Day 2...

    - Renuka Choudhary was 'exposed' for writing a letter to the Defence Minister lobbying for Russian guns. A very ill looking George Fernandes was on air mumbling "it's not proper..."

    Unfotunately no other channel bothered to carry the news and it is not featured in today's TOI or ET either.

    - 'The government is not going to fall!' Communist leader Prakash Karat told Arnab Goswami this 'news' which was flashed as an exclusive (Was the government expected to fall any moment? Now that is news to me!).

    So, you are different, but are these really non-stories being made into stories? That is the question...

    Then there was 'News Unplugged' at 11 or was it 11.30 - an MTV-Zoom style look at the news.

    Roshan Abbas and Maria Goretti read from a script which is a mix of lame jokes + indignation at current events. Example: 'The police should give out official rate card for bribes.' Rates were suggested and flashed on screen as well...

    This was followed by a vox pop where 17 year olds were asked 'Who is the biggest Bluffmaster according to you?' Answers: "My ex boyfriend - all guys - all politicians."

    Then celebrity guest Atul Kulkarni came on. Qs asked included: "Which actress do you lust for?" and "Tell us how many women have made a pass at you?"

    This show is obviously 'aimed at youth'. And again it's different but will it gain acceptance on a 'news channel'? Ummmmm. Guess only time will tell!

  15. My Cable Waalah has decided on his own not to allow any more news channels to our locality..
    So probably, we are saved :-)
    It coming from Times, I am sceptical but since Arnab is involved I might give it a look..
    Lets see...

  16. Here's what I believe.You can either love a newschannel.Or hate it.Newschannels I totally love: NDTV and CNN.

    And no prizes for guessing the newest addition to the "Newschannels I detest" list.
    Their TV promos were pathetic.To say the least.Why harp on and on about how different you,as a newschannel,are.For godsakes,Let us,the viewers,make that decision.

    But no, Arnab has to promise "no talking heads,no preaching" and other stuff I really can't remember.Nor do I care.

    Besides,their "exclusives" are so totally uncalled for.The two that I watched ; the Renuka C "expose" and the one about our beloved PM were so "hitting below the belt".

    And The evidence in both were limited to year-old letters.Yawn! Why should a letter that Ms. R C wrote last year have earth shattering relevance today?

    I actually feel so sorry for her.And more so for those army officers who may have been involved.Their reputations and lives are put on the line just so TN get its two seconds of fame. That is just so darn unforgivable.

    And the Manmohan Singh expose? So he's not the real power center!As long as he's good at what he does(the economy) and takes our country forward I couldn't care .TN brought in ad guru Prasoon Joshi to talk about the " Manmohan brand "!Oh yeah, now that's relevant!

    Now I really liked what he had to say.Especially the part where he says:" These letters should not have come out in the first place". Leaving good ol Arnab Goswami "speechless" for one teensy second!!!

    The one thing endearing on the channel is the female anchor with the "next-door-neighbour" looks,the one with this gossipy sort of tone.And the good "bad English." That was truly innovative and different.So all credit to the TN team for that.

    Ok.I guess I better end this here.
    Oh, and Arnab,Just so you know, I won't be wasting any more of my time feeling your news.

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