Monday, December 18, 2006

IBN alive

Prannoy Roy, Sameer Nair, Gautam Adhikari, Vinod Mehta, Chandan Mitra, Vir Sanghvi...Rajdeep Sardesai - the ivy league of ivory towers in the media. They're media moghuls who've come up the hard way and seen the most controversial times in Indian media, including the Emergency. They've survived as journalists through the thick and thin of times, often jeopardising their life and reputations by their much sought-after nods. Vinod Mehta should know best. Rajdeep Sardesai should know it even better.

His news-channel CNN IBN, jointly owned by him and Sameer Manchanda recently completed one year of a roaring presence in the Indian electronic media. The channel has surely etched a place on the remote, which cannot be ignored. It's natural to hurl abuses nowadays at the cable operators if we cannot tune into IBN.

Their anniversary feature was a special episode indeed. A year's round-up of stories that made a difference in some way or the other. IBN's exclusive package of premium electronic media was on showcase in the episode. The presentation made for excellent viewing, as it once for all sent the critics (read All Seeing Spy for WFN) thinking, I hope. The channel's attitude towards news and the presentation of news, seeking it, following it and analysing it for the viewers has been exemplary for a news-channel that is so young. IBN's future looks promising in Indian cities.

Much of the channel's aggression can be attributed to the people who run the channel's editorial functions. Rajdeep Sardesai (Editor-in-chief) and Sagarika Ghose (Features Editor) both are naturally aggressive and noisy, often leaving no stone unturned in flaring their nostrils over a controversy. It's a healthy habit as long as their nostrils flare up in all directions. They're a couple who always enjoy a healthy debate. However, they sometimes try to impose their opinion on the speakers, as is clearly seen in The Verdict, Face the Nation and India 360.

I'm not saying that their imposed opinions are wrong. They most often reflect the larger public sentiment correctly, but as standard journalism practice, they breach a certain protocol. However, its possible, that even they've realised that journalism in India needs to get much more aggressive. For long, the press as the fourth estate has been a mute observer and commentator on the scheme of things. IBN, for once, has realised, that it's time to get the wheels rolling for changes.

However, the channel is not without its flaws. Many a time, their programmes achieve a point of excellent debate. And that is exactly where you hear the anchor go ringing, "I'm sorry, we're running extremely short of time and we'll have to bring this discussion to a close..."
Can't there be programmes which take the leap a little forward? I'm sure there must be common sense enough to understand when a debate is reaching a solution.

The channel is yet to come up with more innovative programming. Debate and opinion being the highlights of IBN, they must include more feature based shows. Why not show documentaries shot in India exposing issues? There must be several stories that do not see a complete coverage due to time shortage on news bulletins.

Sports coverage is highly limited to Krishnamachary Srikanth. God, give him a break! The channel should get more versatile in its views and try to achieve a balance in the sports coverage and analysis.

Paras Tomar, initially an eyesore, today has come of age. He has a style of his own, that's true and he's sinking it in slowly amongst the viewers. But he should still try to let his guest do more of the talking rather than himself!

Hope the channel in all its entirety expands and spreads its impact in all directions. There is a very confident man at the helm of affairs - Rajdeep shouts-all-the-time Sardesai. NDTV, beware.