By S.R. Ramanujan
Whoever predicted that with the advent of private television channels there is a definite possibility of a severe blow to the print must revise their opinion about the resilience of Indian newspapers, whatever the language. On the contrary, there is going to be a big boom in the newspaper world before the end of the year. The well-entrenched newspapers are testing waters in ?alien? land. There will be a strange marriage between TV and Print honchos to come out with a hybrid and as you know hybrids have a faster growth. Hitherto, there was only one newspaper group which had a television network as well and that was its USP because it successfully maneuvered to thwart any possible attempt by the then friendly government to think of a ban on cross-media ownership. Now, every major newspaper group is nursing ambitions to become media barons in their own territory and some are already in the business of having both, print and television.
The world'slargest circulated daily, The Times of India, is planning to hold the unchallenged lion in its own den with its edition in Chennai. Mount Road Mahavishnu-turned Mount Road Marx has unrivalled supremacy in the Dravidian land though its new found ?secular? and to be precise pro-Marx colour may not be to the liking of its conservative readership. But there is no alternative since The Indian Express failed to fill the vacuum. An interesting turn in this scenario is the entry of Hyderabad-based Deccan Chronicle with a bang and a brand new look. It is no longer the ?Duccan? chronicle of sixties and seventies (because it was most sought after in Irani restaurants and shops) or the sensational chronicle of eighties. The new look Chronicle as it enters an uncharted course in the tradition-bound state of Tamil Nadu, it seems to have taken a conscious decision to offer something new to the Tamilians in order to capture their changing tastes whether it is for dress, food habits and entertainment. It has therefore added an all-colour tabloid supplement which is likely to be an instant draw with the young crowd. No doubt, it is a copycat tabloid exactly on the lines of London tabloids.
With Deccan Chronicle already on the scene, the Times has to rework its strategy, if at all. But, the problem could be for The Hindu, if it continues to be, ironically though, anti-Hindu and pro-Red. It lost its balance when LS Speaker Somnath Chatterjee got angry with the Supreme Court. There were special interviews with him and when he held the Speakers Meet, which turned out to be a non-event, the story was featured as a banner headline. Even the dissidents in Gujrat might not have been so keen to replace Narendra Modi, but there was an unabashed campaign in the ?India'sNational Newspaper since 1878? for the ouster of Modi. The paper ran a series indicating that Modi was almost out. When it did not happen when the dissidents had a 3-hour long meeting with the party President L.K. Advani, its page one headline was ?Tough message to Modi, detractors?, while for every other paper it was a story for inside pages. Chronicle'sheadline was ?Clean chit for Modi..?
Even the dissidents in Gujrat might not have been so keen to replace Narendra Modi, but there was an unabashed campaign in the ?India'sNational Newspaper since 1878? for the ouster of Modi.
While the paper has absolute freedom to treat the stories or slant the stories as it wants, it cannot continue to do so, in an atmosphere of competition, without compromising on its readership which, as of now, is its monopoly.
The Times, before it travels to distant South, has a battle to fight in its own territory. For some strange reason, Zee Television of Subash Chandra and Dhainik Bhaskar which slaughtered local newspapers in Gujrat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana etc, have come together in a joint venture to launch an English daily from Mumbai. In order to browbeat this joint venture, Times is set to launch another English daily ?Times Independent?, supposed to be a serious newspaper, very soon. Ananda Bazar'sThe Telegraph and The Hindustan Times are also entering the fray during this year. As a result, fierce media war is going to break out.