Who would have thought that going Hindi would make it so tough to become Indian' Not Star News. Now, pilloried by the media, abandoned by its most respectable shareholder, grilled by the government and threatened with a blackout, the channel is in one unholy mess.
Should it worry' Not as long as its viewers are with it. And the figures are with Star, and counting.
Over the last few weeks, Star News has raced ahead, from a distant number three during its earlier incarnation, to a strong number two among all news channels, not a mean achievement within three months of going native.
Far more significantly, it is already snapping at the heels of the market leader, Aaj Tak. The latest figures show Star News with a market share of 31 per cent, against Aaj Tak’s 35 per cent. How long before Aaj Tak be- comes yesterday'
Especially since Star News, unlike all the others, can call upon the muscle and the deep pockets of the Rupert Murdoch empire. Already, the Star bouquet controls 65 per cent of all television viewership and 50 per cent of the advertisement pie. It may soon be impossible to stop the Star juggernaut.
Even Aaj Tak and other Star rivals think so, going by the vociferous campaign mounted by them to stymie Star. But such tactics can at best slow Murdoch down, they can’t stop him. In the end, Star will find a way to keep both its bosses in Delhi and New York happy, like many other companies before it, from soft drinks to airlines. Why expect a media organization to be different' Meanwhile, the locals will get a breather, to fight another day.
Against a fake war
It is never easy to question the army’s version of its actions in the midst of an operation. Or to find out in the fog of war what really happened. The only thing that the embeds in Iraq could tell us with confidence was that they saw what the US army wanted them to see.
The Indian army is no different. Nor are Indian journalists known for jeopardizing their patron-client relationship, with the army very much in the patron’s chair.
Praveen Swami, young, personable and a reporter with Frontline, the fortnightly magazine that is part of the Hindu stable, refuses to toe the line. “Fake War: The Hype and The Folly” — Arnab Goswami of NDTV 24x7 balked at reading out the title of Swami’s recent article on the army’s much-vaunted counter-terrorist operation Sarp Vinash. “Rather strong, don’t you think,” he told Swami on television.
We are used to treating the army with kid gloves. Exposés there have been (Bofors being the most memorable), but they were either cases of corruption or human rights violations, not about operational matters. Swami has shattered the mould.
But Swami wants more. “The mainstream media’s attitude that the army can do no wrong has to go,” he says emphatically. Amen.
Kids are reading books again, all thanks to Harry Potter. So we are told. If so, and even J.K. Rowling’s critics say that it is so, will the latest Harry Potter get kids to read newspapers and magazines too' Quite a bit of the action in the Order of Phoenix has to do with the Daily Prophet and The Quibbler, far more than in any of the earlier books. The Quibbler, a magazine, makes its first appearance in this fifth volume.
And it has to be said that in this one respect the Muggle world appears to be a lot more exciting than the wizards’ magical world. I would any day read the Daily Telegraph than the Daily Prophet. Or Rowling is just not editor material. So that only the earnest Hermione reads the Prophet.
Still, Rowling will earn a place above all mastheads if she can really deliver to the non-magical newspapers and magazines the elusive young minds, that elixir all publications are desperately trying to get hold of.