On Tuesday morning we got a glimpse into the pioneer station of private television news in India. NDTV was the first non-state media outlet that was allowed to report the news. We got a behind the scenes tour of many of the different departments and sets. First we stopped into the post-production editing area and spoke with an editor about how he cuts the film for different stories to slice together the images that are seen as the anchor speaks. Usually, he only has twenty minutes or less to create the final product.
Next we spoke to a reporter about his job chasing down stories nationwide. He travels with just one cameraman and has to fight the intense traffic to reach a scene in time to report back. We then got a view into the main control room, where staff pieces together the different shots and stories in real time. There is one for each of the channels that NDTV runs, an English and a Hindi news channel, a business channel and a lifestyle channel. We got to peek in on a live set and watch an anchor conduct an interview with the head of Indian sports commission about a recent scandal. Next we were introduced to the team who runs a political satire show with huge, life-like puppets- think Sesame Street meets The Daily Show.
Finally, we had an hour with Prannoy Roy, the CEO, founder and founding anchor of NDTV, who was described to me by an Indian friend as India’s Tom Brokaw. Mr. Roy discussed his views on the tabloidization of India’s news media, ethics in reporting and the future of news in the internet age. It was fascinating to hear from someone who had been in the business since its inception and had seen the TV news media market grow from one channel to hundreds of channels nationwide. What was particularly striking to me was that the challenges were in some ways extremely similar to the American market, the diversity of channel offerings, a shortening attention of viewers and the rise of sensationalist tabloid style journalism. But one of the major differences lies in the proliferation of internet access, which we heard numerous times would rise quickly by huge multiples in the coming years. NDTV has an opportunity to remain at the forefront of Indian news media by figuring out how to convert their programming to the mobile web, which before long, will be the main way that hundreds of millions of Indians consume their news.