As tele-viewers surf news channels at will, Rajdeep Sardesai and Ashutosh tell how they intend to maintain Channel 7 at high tide

The ultimate star of a news channel is news RAJDEEP SARDESAI Ever surfed through the seemingly innumerable channels on television dishing out uncannily similar, often unappetising fare, and longed for the good old days when Doordarshan, and not the customer, was king? Well, may be not... After all it was a rather stuffed shirt existence. The entertainment often came with a strong dose of sage advice. As for news, all was constantly well with the world, and headlines constituted such shockers as 'Poverty must be removed, says Prime Minister.' Well, things have certainly moved on since then. Now, the challenge is all about how to keep the viewer from grabbing the remote and switching to another news channel. It seems like business as usual at Channel 7's studios in Film City, Noida after its takeover by CNN-IBN. "I think Ashutosh and the others are feeling it more," says CNN-IBN Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai. "It's like expecting a baby."As Ashutosh, Managing Director, Channel 7, laughs, Rajdeep, a veteran in Indian television journalism, adds, "There is always excitement," but clarifies, "I'm the surrogate mother."TV journalism has always been more glamorous than its print counterpart, perhaps also because it evolved in more recent times, when the 'simple living, high thinking' generation had been all but bypassed. The journo with down-at-heel chappals, rusty cycle and trusty pad and pencil is the epitome of the print journalist of old, not compatible with the TV anchors and suave reporters we see everywhere now. Rajdeep, quickly pointing out his sandals, saying he has come to terms with the tie and coat but not the shoes, explains on a serious note that it is good that journalists earn more now. "I did six years in print. I never thought I would stay in television. I call myself as belonging to the penumbral generation. I'm not contemptuous of print and I don't think they should be contemptuous of TV."

Cluttered minds

It calls for common sense, he feels. But common sense is not always easy to come by. In the competitive atmosphere, "it is not just the market that is cluttered, our minds are cluttered too."So how does Channel 7, ready with its new logo that the team is at pains to keep a secret until the launch day, plan to project itself? "We will be looking at hard news. ," explains Ashutosh.Rajdeep adds, "I think people come to television for news. In the clutter we forget our DNA. At CNN-IBN that has been our focus. Also, what constitutes news is changing. Everything the Prime Minister says in Vigyan Bhawan is not news." By way of example, he says a story about severe traffic jams or water logging in Mumbai would be more worthy of major billing than a report on the Office of Profit controversy, since the former affects ordinary people.It may sound like localising the coverage, but, counters Rajdeep, "I think a story is a story. I don't think a good local story will not be watched by others. "The challenge, explains Ashutosh, is how to make a local story into an international story. Key issues affect all viewers, not just Mumbaikars. Personalities are important, but they will never be the sole key to holding viewers, concludes Rajdeep. "The ultimate star of a news channel is news."ANJANA RAJAN