The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jain TV takes community programme route

New Delhi, Feb. 22: It was the first private news channel in the country and also tried to chart a new course for the media industry with its Video on Wheels project.

But somewhere along the way, conflicts with governments and slippage in production quality was in danger of relegating Jain TV to a has-been.

It is re-inventing itself now, in the avatar of a Hindi business news channel and is also trying to set a trend that will be debatable if not controversial — breaking down the television news audience on community lines.

Beginning shortly, Jain TV will start a weekly programme, Adivasi Ki Awaz (voice of tribals). The programme will have anchors who are tribals and discussants who are tribals, too. They will discuss “issues concerning tribals”.

Adivasi Ki Awaz follows on the heels of Mussalman: Kal, Aaj Aur Kal (Muslims: yesterday, today and tomorrow). Also to be launched in the run-up to the budget is Vyapari Ki Awaz (voice of traders).

Ankur Jain, who has taken over as Jain TV’s managing editor, says: “If the Sikhs want a programme tomorrow, we will have it on. We get moderates on our programmes.”

Asked if “segmentising” the television audience on community lines — the television viewership has other segments such as language and region — did not pose an ethical dilemma, Jain said: “The nation’s priorities are not set by us. For whatever reason, there are communities getting isolated. Therefore, the need to highlight them separately. The idea is to be ‘impartial’ if not ‘secular’.”

In its new avatar, Jain TV is seeking to take perceived “elitism” out of television news and current affairs programming. In its planned budget-special programmes to be marketed under the Mere Sau Rupaye (my hundred rupees), says Jain, “we are willing to sacrifice so-called ‘slick’ programming if need be and consult people who really know the subject so that the Union budget can be explained at the street level. Basically, the idea is to explain where the government gets its money and where it goes out”.

Jain TV content head Santosh Bhartiya says this is “future TV”. The idea is to move beyond “byte-based” news — where a story is spun around a soundbyte — into more depth. To that end, Jain and Bhartiya are tapping into vernacular dailies.

In an unorthodox content-sharing arrangement, they have tied up with 18 newspapers, only one of which (The New Indian Express) is in English, to publish transcripts of its budget specials. Editors and journalists of these newspapers — such as Amar Asom (in Assam) and Dharitri (Orissa) and Prabhat Khabar (Jharkhand) — will be featured on Jain TV’s programmes.

Jain claims Jain TV reaches 30 million households. Beginning with the budget coverage — and by the first week of April — Jain TV will convert itself into a total Hindi business news channel.

There is no such channel at present. Another — Videocon’s proposed Bharat Business Channel has run into trouble with BBC over its nomenclature.

Jain TV’s transformation is in keeping with the churning in the television news industry that will see the birth of new channels and re-invention of others over the next two months. Jain said that if Jain TV is digitally encrypted, it would not turn into a pay channel.

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