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Can any English news channel beat the just turned 10 Times Now?

In person, Arnab’s dramatically different. The perfect gentleman, very polite and soft-spoken. Mr Charming.

In person, Arnab’s dramatically different. The perfect gentleman, very polite and soft-spoken. Mr Charming.  

This week, Times Now celebrates a decade of its existence. As also, Arnab Goswami’s 10 years at the channel. Much as I dislike the heat his debates generate and the manner in which he conducts himself, I can’t help admitting that his shows are engaging. And entertaining. Even as he attempts to get one all charged up, often unnecessarily, I must acknowledge that he’s decidedly the #1 news anchor-editor in the country, across all languages. And I may also add, the most influential.



In person, Arnab is dramatically different. The perfect gentleman, very polite and soft-spoken. Mr Charming. But get talking on work, and shades of the man you see on telly surface. You wonder whether he genuinely believes he’s god’s gift to news television or he’s putting on an act. I have figured it’s a bit of both. I have had many arguments with friends and family on him. Have defended him hugely in the presence of non-journalists, and damned him amongst friends. Goswami’s first few years were forgettable. The channel was going nowhere. On Day 1, he was seen gushing with his co-anchor about how he missed being on air for a long time (since he had quit NDTV).



Although many say that the 26/11 Mumbai siege was the turning point, the turnaround had happened some months before. He was already asking the tough questions. I remember writing about it then, much to the annoyance of other notables in the business.



The masterstroke, either by design or accident, was his decision to stay on in the studio and get his team to step into danger zone in Mumbai post 26/11. While other TV folks made a mockery of the craft reporting from Ground Zero, he was sitting back and taking stock of the situation.



From then on, thanks to doggedly covering the post-26/11 issues, especially India-Pakistan relations and often skirmishes with China, the reported racial discrimination in Australia plus the tens of controversies in India: the Coal Scam, Adarsh, Rahul-bashing, Anna Hazare, Aam Aadmi Party… the list is endless. It was as if the world was conspiring to ensure that the Arnab brand of journalism thrives. I have people who advertise on news television tell me about the premium that Newshour attracts over some others. And guests on the show say the response they get from friends and family to an appearance on the 9 pm nightly is loads more than the others, often combined.



So why have the others not fared as well as Arnab? I guess he got the formula and pitch right around the time of the terror attack and the numerous scams. He spoke for the average Indian, put political leaders in the dock and asked them the tough questions. Today, Arnab Goswami dominates his channel. While all other entities have worthy alternatives to their mainstay prime time anchors, Times Now has none. This of course doesn’t appear to worry the bosses as there has been no major attempt to build a second line.



In their advertising campaigns, various networks have spoken about the “noise factor” in news, but that hasn’t really stuck with viewers. The English news channel-watching universe loves this man. And, that’s what finally matters.



If other channels want to outwit Times Now, they need to think out-of-the-box, and go beyond the format on all channels. It’s pointless being a me-too, and do horribly with the weekly ratings. Some have spent large sums of money on their look-and-feel and even identity.



As the channel celebrates its tenth anniversary, it must credit its editor-in-chief and President-News for the job done. I wouldn’t say it’s a great job, but suffice to say he has redefined news television in the country.



For the better? I am not sure. For the worse? Perhaps. But do we have an alternative? Clearly no. It’s not that Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt aren’t good. But it’s too late to beat an Arnab in his game. Rajdeep has a sharper political mind, is good with his cricket and a host of issues, but the channel (India Today) is going nowhere despite the rechristening. As for Barkha Dutt, the scar of her “error of judgement” in the Niira Radia case hasn’t faded away though it’s still good to see her on NDTV 24x7.



NewsX is a poor cousin to Times Now despite getting some quality guests at prime time. I find some of the new faces on CNN-IBN pretty good, but we know what a super interviewer Bhupendra Chaubey is, right?



The writer is a commentator and editor working across media. He is founder-editor at MxMIndia and Happ Post, an alternative news offering. Tweets @pmahesh

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 12:12:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/entertainment/can-any-english-news-channel-beat-the-just-turned-10-times-now/article8201261.ece

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