"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.
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?
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.
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.."
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!