StraightTalk – The exclusive interaction segment of tvnews4u.com, spoke at length with the Chief Editor of Times NOW – Rahul Shivshankar on his return to Times Now and the channel’s continuing success in reinforcing the leadership in English News Space week after week, and achieving a land-mark feet on the Result Day coverage that grabbed 55% market share and garnered viewership that is three times more than its nearest competitor.
tvnews4u: How does it feel to come back to Times NOW..?
Rahul Shivshankar : Been around for 22 years and this is my 3rd stint with the Times Group. Coming back is very enriching as I think there is a certain substance to the brand and values.
Editors obviously have different ways of interpreting values and putting it out there. For me the one very strong recall or aspect of the Times brand is its commitment to facts and I hope to bring it back to Times NOW in a bigger way.
tvnews4u: Any plans to come out with a Hindi Channel..?
Rahul: We are now focused on the launch of Times NOW HD, all the back ends are ready waiting for the appropriate time and day to launch. The reason it is going to be big thing because it’s just not a qualitative change, high signal clarity but a substantially different product.
Times NOW will split into several new products in different markets. We are broadcasting in 100 countries presently and we will have curated content to appeal to different Continents, Countries and Diasporas.
You are now going to see Times NOW become a Multi-headed Hydra creation. Times Now will be multiplied 6-7 folds because of the way it’s going to be differential. That is a huge task and challenge.
So, for now, having a vernacular channel is not priority.
tvnews4u: Times NOW is the leader, what makes it No. 1 and how different are you in News gathering..?
Rahul: According to me, Times NOW is very people centric and we believe that action begins in TN not in a pompous way. What we are trying to say is that when we pick up a story – we feel the story and we connect with the story.
My news room and my other colleagues have an amazingly in-depth edit meets where we look at stories where there is a people’s connect. Our priority is what the viewer is looking for in a story.
For example: the farmers of Tamilnadu protesting with skulls in Jantar-Mantar. Every Channel got the story at the same time but we reacted and we were curious as to why they are there.
We don’t take news for granted nor do we take our viewers for granted. It’s the same whether it is the Gaikwad story or Sidhu. Sidhu was elected to govern and not to make us laugh.
tvnews4u: Social Media sets trends and SM has become a check for MSM credibility, do you agree
Rahul: Yes, SM has become a fact. Any story put out now we double check it for facts as SM resonates in perpetuity and you can hear it for perpetuity.
Not naming a channel, but they put out a story and SM trolled them and finally the doyen of the Media Industry had to apologise.
SM is a tool for activists, liberals, communists and free marketers. In the din of the News room you do miss out on certain things and SM can pull you back.
tvnews4u: While the Channel continues to be the leader, would there be a new DNA under the leadership of Rahul Shivshankar..?
Rahul: My Upfront Promo makes it very clear, I have abiding faith in Fact,
Lot of people say fact is for Wikipedia, fact is that, fact is this, fact is pure vanilla. But I don’t want to do a disservice to my viewer, I respect my viewer. I don’t want my viewer to think that we are so and so and will swallow anything we put out. I think every viewer needs to know the facts behind a story.
The essence of my journalism and the training I ever had as a journalist and I come from a family of very committed journalist and intellectuals. I strongly believe that truth is important.
tvnews4u: News Channels are blamed for running after TRP’s, there is no follow up after a story is broken, Any response to this..?
Rahul: The problem with the present days News Channels is, they are so instantaneous. We get a story and do three days of halla and on fourth day it is gone.
I actually feel going back to a story and getting justice for somebody who has fallen of the headlines. If it doesn’t get TRP’s people are mistaken but unfortunately we are a linear product and have time constraints.
Yes, we get brickbats saying see they picked a story just for numbers and it hurts as we put our resources to get the story.
tvnews4u: Time NOW had the best Election Coverage, Your take…!
Rahul: We from 2014 LS elections have researched and worked hard at putting out results accurately. We didn’t want to be like others and fictionalise the results.
For the first time in 12 yrs we got the highest number a record 60%. We respected the viewer’s choice and decided that Fact is more important.
tvnews4u: What role will Mirror NOW play..?
Rahul: Mirror NOW has a well-defined role and will concentrate on city centric issues, civic issues and these issues are very important in all our lives.
If it does well then it will be the leader in the segment.
tvnews4u: When do we see Rahul Shivshankar anchor Newshour..?
Rahul: Good question you have asked I want to bring some clarity to this debate
Newshour has an identity of its own and I have an identity of my own, I cannot be an entertainer.
I am an editor and I take my job seriously, I am slightly defacing and I wanted to construct a narrative based on my persona. I cannot aspire to be someone else and it will come across as completely fake.
It’s about bringing some rationality based on facts. I am uncompromising and India Upfront in that segment has garnered a viewership of +35%. I am very happy
We are creating a new template within Times Now, Newshour is an attitude based show and I am an attitude less person.
Actually the ratings on News Hour after Mr. Goswami’s exit has increased widely beyond our expectations and its now 40% + in a market which is crowded by well-known names.
Yes some of our debate is a actually a ‘Debate Now’, viewers have shifted but our base has increased and more people are sampling News Hour now.
We are now rebuilding News Hour where-in ‘Debate is a debate now, we are giving more space to our panellists and there is a definite end and a beginning’. News Hour no longer is consumed by a fireball of drama, spectacle and theatre. We have brought fidelity to a fact and brought core values to the debate.
Rahul finally says, ‘Channel is built around the brand and not the personality of an individual’.