Special Correspondent
Daijiworld Media Network

Bangalore, Feb 27: It is simple economics that a good product is able to find a place for itself even when the market is overcrowded.  But at the same time it is said that it is not wise decision to enter into a crowded market.   The product in question here is the Kannada news channels that have mushroomed in our state and it would be preposterous to say the latest entrant into the field is not wise enough to enter into the already crowded market.   Throwing aside this conventional  wisdom Kannada News channels in the state have grown rapidly and there are additions to the existing ones which make the fight for supremacy for grabbing the viewer’s eyeballs quite a byzantine task if not an impossible one.

So  for  all those who still doubt whether there is space for one more news channel to make it 7 in all apart from the 11 general entertainment Kannada channels,  it is only a matter of time before they are able to get an fitting answer.  This debate has come to the fore with the recent addition of Public TV of former Kannada Prabha and Suvarna Channel’s News Editor H R Ranganth, to the existing stampede of channels.   With one more player in the market   the fight for the top slot in the small screen is going to generate more heat and the clamor for ‘breaking news’ is sure to witness a new high (or is it low?).  One-time firebrand journalist H R Ranganath being at the helm of affairs at Public TV has only added more nosiness and intensity to the existing fight for supremacy among channels for grabbing eyeballs. 

Everyone is waiting with baited breath to know whether Ranganth’s name alone is suffice for the general public to sit up and take notice of Public TV and thus threaten the domination of TV9.  All said and done, ultimately the question zeroes on not about this channel finding a niche but on whether it is going to make any difference at all.   

Public TV which was went live on February 12, 2012 and 7 channels are now competing and combating with one another to climb to the top with ‘breaking news’ of every possible kind.  Public TV has become the 7th Kannada news channel of the state which will fight it out with Udaya News, T V 9 Karnataka, Suvarna News, Samaya, Kasturi and Janashree News channels, with each one trying new stratagem to garner public attention. 

Ranganath is believed to be a straight forward and dispassionate journalist though there is certainly a question mark on his own integrity.  Some have openly questioned his integrity as his name is embroiled in a site he got allotted to himself under discretionary quota during the regime of S M Krishna even as he went on unleashing tirade against politicians doing so in the umpteen number of TV shows he anchored when he was in Suvarna TV.  Whether this channel will make any difference to the existing media scene, is what we have to wait and watch.

Udaya TV was the first Kannada satellite channel to go on air in 1994.  The entry of TV 9 owned by Ravi Prakash of Sneha Television Network in 2006 opened a new chapter in the field of Kannada news channels with its aggressive journalism.  Kasturi News 24 owned by Anita Kumaraswamy (wife of H D Kumaraswamy) with its tagline ‘muktha, nirbheetha and nyayasammatha’ entered the field in 2007.  Suvarna News 24X7 owned by MP and businessman Rajeev Chandrashekar came in 2008 followed by Samaya TV owned by Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani in 2010.  Janashri entered the already crowded scene in 2011 and is owned by Gali Janardhana Reddy, though there are rumours doing the rounds that the channel has changed the hands a few months ago.  

Now Public TV has entered scene with a bang and is trying to ride high in the name of H R Ranghanath who promotes the channel through the company he promoted Writemen Media Pvt Ltd., which he says, is an independent company.  Public TV claims it has not received funding from politicians or businessmen, which sounds quite phony because according to simple arithmetic and as per general industry perception floating a regional channel requires a capital expenditure to the tune to 45 to 50 crores.  From where Ranghanath has been able to manage these funds (not possible just being a journalist) will come out in the open sooner than later.

Leaving that aside, it must be noted that of the four southern states Karnataka’s position is not very strong vis-à-vis its southern counterparts be it in media market coverage is concerned or with regard to the strong political allegiance or views are concerned.  As compared to the other four states Karnataka is said to be small market and the presence of so many channels always leaves a question mark as to how long they will be able to carry on the competition or sustain it and with what credibility, considering that most of these channels are owned directly by politicians belonging to different political parties or has the backing of different political parties.  Having realized the role played by the media in shaping public opinion politicians thought it idoneous to start their own channels.  The result, as we know, media is completely under the control of politicians and businessmen, which surely, does not augur well for a democratic set up like ours.  

The general public can only expect the channel war to reach its nadir in the days to come. TV 9, which is now riding high having topped the TRP’s overtaking Udaya News, is not going to treat the competition cavalierly.  Known for its racy and raunchy stories, which sometimes border on sensationalism, it is sure to use every trick up the sleeve to face the competition. One wonders what kind of sting operations the viewers will be presented with in the days to come.  One can recall the faux pas it committed by TV9 with its erroneous report on pulse polio in 2008. Public TV comes at a time when the political situation in the country is quite volatile and when the state is getting ready for the assembly elections within a year or so.  

At the moment TV9, Udaya, Suvarna and Janashree are giving each other a tough time and Public TV has only added to this challenge with its presence.  Crime, sex, scandals, sensationalism and political voyeurism and breaking news apart from ordinary events and happenings are the fodder on which these channels survive.  Of course Janashree TV has not succumbed to the temptation of sensationalizing for crime-based stories, a welcome departure indeed.

How these channels will conduct themselves in the course of next few years will be crucial.  In the entire fiasco the viewers will have no other option but to keep changing channels in their search for credible or unbiased channel for news and views.