All the English news consumers out there, did you know that one of the leading English news channels of the country— read Times Now— forayed into the Hindi news space two months back? No, we are not talking about Times Television Network (TTN) launching a Hindi news channel. Tune in to the channel at 8 am or read further, you’ll know what we are talking about. Patience reader, patience!
Some of you early risers would know that Times Now launched its first Hindi news bulletin on May 8, two days after the launch of its rival channel Republic TV on May 6. Check out this monologue of senior anchor Anand Narasimhan as he makes his audience “roobaroo” with his Hindi speaking skills in the first Hindi debate called the Morning Newshour.
In fact, “roobaroo” seems to be Narasimhan’s most favourite Hindi word. Watch the first two minutes of this video.
Though the anchor said that the Morning Newshour would be in Hindi, he often switches between Hindi and English, what we often call Hinglish. Besides the news debates, the morning 6 am to 8 am slot has also been dedicated for speed news that is delivered in Hindi. However, it is only the speech that has gone Hindi, the text remains in English while the style of debate is a leaf from what happens on prime time.
Earlier, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Times Network, MK Anand, had said that there was no “concerted idea or plan” to go all Hindi. While he still stands by his statement, he told Newslaundry that the idea behind it was to be able to “recruit more viewers who are currently not coming to Times property”.
Whether or not Times Group accepts that it is a conscious effort to rake in more numbers, it is known that Hindi news channels cater to a larger audience than the English news genre. As per data shared by Chrome Data Analytics and Media, English news genre has only 0.07 per cent total viewership in the urban space as compared to Hindi news genre that has a viewership of 3.78 per cent.
But has Times Now been able to capture the Hindi news viewers with their Morning Newshour in Hindi? According to data shared by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), the channel’s Hindi news show did result in a spike in its monthly average numbers in May.
The channel recorded an average 40,000 impressions all over the country between week 15 and week 18 [April 8 to May 5] before the channel launched the Hindi news bulletin. The numbers of the subsequent weeks sees a spike between week 19 and week 22 [May 6 to June 2]. The viewership increased by 10,000 impressions after the channel began airing the Hindi news bulletin on May 8.
However, Anand clarified that the move to go Hindi in the morning slot was not to gain more impressions in that particular hour but to expand the English news viewership. “In any case the viewership [in the morning slot] used to be negligible, there’s been a threefold increase. There’s been about 1.5 increase in the day part after the Hindi slot,” Anand told Newslaundry.
According to the numbers provided by Anand, Times Now’s Hindi slot has led to a substantial increase in the numbers of the subsequent slots during the day. A comparative study of the reach before and after the launch of the Hindi bulletin reveals that the reach growth between week 8 to week 17 was 118 thousand but after the launch of the Hindi bulletin, the reach has gone up by 3 times, i.e 387 thousand between week 19 to week 27. “The next time band, 10-3 pm has gone up from 214 thousand to 532 thousand. It is 149 per cent growth, 2.5 times,” Anand told us.
This ostensibly means that Times Now has been able to capture the attention of the Hindi audience through this move. When asked if this would make the English news consumers feel alienated, Anand denied. “The fact is, 6-8am viewership base on our 700 thousand viewership, it was only 10 percent of the viewers coming there. 90 per cent of the viewers were not there. So, it is not going to alienate them in any case,” he told Newslaundry.
With the launch of Republic TV, Times Group relaunched its property channel, Magicbricks Now to Mirror Now as a general news channel that does issue-based coverage. However, Anand denied having any plans of converting Times Now into a Hindi news channel. “If I was to launch a Times Now in Hindi, I will launch a separate Times Now in Hindi,” he said.
Of course there is a world outside the metro cities, so it important to reach out to a larger audience. However, given that TimesNow is registered as a English general news channel, is it abiding by the law in broadcasting Hindi news bulletins? According to the policy guidelines on uplinking and downlinking of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, when a license is issued to a TV channel, they are categorised as “news” or “non-news” and not categorised based on the language they broadcast their content in. As per this master list of MIB, Times Now can broadcast content in “English/Hindi and all remaining Indian scheduled languages”.
For other channels, ‘Hinglish’ seems to be the buzzword for now
English news anchors speaking in Hindi is nothing new. Oft, when channels invite panelists from various parties, anchors resort to using the raj bhasha. For instance, Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami interviewed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Hinglish. “Bahut bahut congratulations, apne pehle 100 din me jo kiya (Congratulations on your achievements in your first 100 days),” he begins. So much Hinglish.
In fact, in the pre-launch phase, Goswami spoke about his insistence to hire “accented” anchors and reporters, ostensibly to be able to cater to a larger audience and gets its initial distribution strategy right. This piece on The Wire, states how Republic TV approached one of the star anchors of Tamil news because of his Tamil accent, to add a tinge of local flavour in their English. Moreover, the channel also has partnership with regional news broadcast networks such as Asianet News Online Pvt Ltd, Vikatan Group, Business World, News Live, Niyomiya Barta, North East Live, which distinguishes the channel from others with its widest reach.
Owing to much hoopla around Republic TV’s launch, its rival channels including, Times Now, resorted to various measures to tackle competition from its former showman. The channel is perhaps tackling competition from Republic TV on an hourly basis. This could be a possible rationale behind the channel launching a Hindi bulletin two days after Republic TV’s launch.
CNN-News18’s Zakka Jacob, the go-to person for Tamil translations on the channel, has also tried to bring in the local flavour in the past when he swayed his way into speaking in Tamil with dricketer Srikkanth during the Jallikattu protest. Jacob has also oft used Hinglish as a way to engage his panelists in debates. Here’s an example.
TV Today Network also did their bit in trying to tackle competition from Goswami by bringing their star anchor from Aaj Tak to replace Karan Thapar on the show, To The Point. Remember the hoarding wars between Republic TV and India Today before the channel was launched?
The author can be reached on Twitter at @shrutimenon10.