Wednesday, June 18, 2008

क्‍या लोग यही चाहते हैं

प्रिंट मीडिया से इलेक्‍ट्रॉनिक का रूख करनेवालों में रजत शर्मा भी रहे हैं जो इंडिया टीवी के मालिक भी हैं। टीआरपी की होड़ में उनका चैनल अब नंबर वन बन गया है। इस घटना पर मीडिया जगत में कई तरह की चर्चाएं हैं। तहलका की हरिंदर बवेजा ने पत्रकारिता और टीवी के नए ट्रेंड पर रजत शर्मा से बातचीत की है। संभव है रजत शर्मा के कई जवाब आपको पचे नहीं। उन्‍होंने बार बार दोहराया है लोग यही देखना सुनना चाहते हैं, लेकिन सचमुच लोग यही चाहते हैं क्‍या, यह विचारणीय है?


'I have a channel that tops the ratings. I am not ashamed'

Rajat Sharma, 50, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of India TV, was a
little-known print journalist until the television show Aap Ki Adalat
catapulted him to popularity. 16 years later, his own news channel
occupies the top rung on the TRP ladder, using superstition,
celebrity, sleaze and a host of other debatable tricks to get there.
In an unabashed interview with HARINDER BAWEJA, Sharma spells out his
formula and takes on his rivals.

Number seven to Number one. Describe your journey.

Very difficult. When I decided to launch India TV four years ago, all
my friends said I was taking a plunge into an already crowded market.
There were established news channels like NDTV, Star, Zee, Aaj Tak,
Sahara and DD. But I had belief in the viewers who have supported me
throughout my career in television. I knew that if I started a channel
they would support me. It took a lot of time and energy. There were
scary moments, days when I thought I may not be able to do it. On
three occasions, I had to sell my property to pay salaries. Whatever
I'd earned during my 20-year career started disappearing. But things
changed. When the first foreign investor turned up, he valued my
company at Rs 300 crores, the next, 600 crores. Now investors are
giving it a 1000-crore tag. Now, as I look back, all those moments of
crisis were worth it.

What is your formula to overtake your immediate rivals, Aaj Tak and Star News?

I keep telling my editorial team that TV viewership is like a game of
cricket. There was a time when Tests were a big hit, Gavaskar was the
hero; then it was limited overs and Kapil Dev entered the scene. Now
it is Twenty-20. I can't say today that I will be a Sunil Gavaskar and
want to play Twenty-20. The content has to change with time, even at
the risk of being criticised by other colleagues in the media
industry. Our rivals might term it a popularity contest but really,
our sole concern is the viewer. If the viewer wants to watch
Twenty-20, I can't show them a test match.

Talking about criticism, one of the criticisms has been that the Hindi
channels in particular have dumbed down on content.

No, not at all. We have changed the definition of news. If people
still think that politicians cutting ribbons is news, those days are
behind us. And (so are) speeches made in the parliament. The Hindi
news channels are blamed but if you look at the front pages of all big
newpapers today, it is IPL. In fact, two top news weeklies have done a
cover story on the sexual habits of Indian women, but they are not
blamed. Apart from TEHELKA, which is an exception, IPL is the lead in
all popular magazines. If you go by the older school of thought, the
lead story this week should have been the price rise. Similarly, the
content of television news has also changed.

How much do you bother about the political class's views?

Very much. Like the politicians are accountable to the people, so are
we. And our job is to make the politicians accountable to the people.
This is how the concept of Aap Ki Adalat was born. The show is going
strong 16 years later. This is the formula India TV is based on. It
seeks to make people accountable, be it a politician, film star or

What if I were to say to you that India TV has become synonymous with
bhoot pret?

That was six months ago. We have not done one bhoot pret story since then.

But you have used that to climb the TRP ladder.

No, we did not. Those days, the stories coming in were of that sort.
And the people liked it. For example, last week we found that 51
percent of the viewers watched India TV because we were showing an
interview with Vishnu, who used to work for the Talwars. Our reporter
got hold of him somewhere in Nepal. Last week, India TV led the
viewership ratings on account of its coverage of the Aarushi murder
case. It has nothing to do with bhoot pret or saanp nagin.
Fortunately, other TV channels have stuck to this old formula. On Shah
Rukh Khan's Paanchvi Pass, Laloo Yadav appeared as a guest. It is a
great mix of politics and entertainment. We are following the popular

Are you in the business of news or entertainment?

We are in the business of news and only news. But today, entertainment
has become big news. The times are changing. IPL is cricket; it is not
entertainment. Laloo Yadav is a politician, a people's representative;
you can't call him an entertainer. India TV is a news channel; you
cannot call it an entertainment channel.

What about social responsibility? Would India TV do a campaign on the
Khairlanji killings?

India TV is the only channel which has taken up campaigns as a social
responsibility. I can give you many examples. Let me be modest and
give you a few of the famous ones. One magician boy needed a Rs 60,000
injection every month. An appeal flashed on our channel for three
hours and the cheques started pouring in. In Mumbai, there was a
charitable home for orphans. One day, the landlord decided to throw
them out. India TV reached the site and broadcast live the events
unfolding there. The landlord finally had to go back on his decision.
When the fuel price hike was announced, we kept showing through the
day how this was going to affect the viewers. The viewer will have
noticed our sense of responsibility when it comes to a social,
political cause or fighting for the viewer. That's why India TV has
now adopted the tag line "Aapki Awaaz". Our goal is to be the people's

But India TV did go the bhoot pret route to get close to its rivals on
the TRP ladder?

India TV changed itself according to the need of the times. There was
a time when we had reports from a village in Orissa of a witch doing
the rounds. We went on air telling our viewers that this is just

But you will agree with me that this is not news?

Of course it is. Suppose in Thane, there are rumours that there is a
bhoot going around killing people. We tell people that it is not a
bhoot; it is some person out there on a killing spree. We run such
items to educate the viewers.

You are talking about adapting to what a viewer wants but don't you
think it is important to set the agenda?

What is the agenda of the country? Is it only to keep abusing
politicians? Is it only to show long speeches and ribbon cuttings? We
have set the agenda. I can tell you today, with a lot of pride, that
the seven channels behind us in ratings are following in our
footsteps. Here, it is not only the content but the way channels
promote themselves. These channels copy our graphics, sets, music and
visuals, almost everything. We have become trendsetters. This is
exactly why we get the numbers: people would like to see the original
and not the copy.

Do you have a formula?

At my daily meeting with the editorial team, I tell them "go for the
kill". Don't do a story that will make me or the chief producer or you
happy; do one that will make the viewers happy. This is the formula.
Go for the viewer. Speak for them.

You have a big budget for news and investigations.

When we concentrate on investigations, we're labelled a "sting"
channel. When we don't, we're asked, why not? These are the problems
of growing fast, of being number one. In the last year, we have grown
by 110 percent. Our rivals have grown 2-4 percent. People want to know
what the formula is. The formula is that I spend 18 hours a day in my
newsroom and I still write scripts. I can say with pride that there is
no one in this entire country who owns a channel and also writes
scripts and does programming for three hours and the promos.

The Shakti Kapoor investigation drew flak for getting into people's
personal lives. Do you think that was a mistake?

No, I'm proud of it. Last week, one of our rivals did a programme on
the casting couch. Six months ago, the former number one channel
touched on it. I wasn't bothered about criticism from the media or
film industry. I thought it was a genuine effort to warn young girls
joining the film industry

You can be accused of being obsessed with TRPs, of forgetting about
news in this crazy race for numbers and commercial success.

I have never been interested in commercial success. Money has never
been the attraction. It is the people's love and popularity which has
been my weakness

You don't think you have dumbed down on content?

Not at all. If our content is so bad, why are all the seven channels
copying it? When people ask me whether I'm in the race for TRPs, I'm
surprised. Do you ask Sachin Tendulkar why he makes so many runs? My
job is to have a channel that tops the ratings. I am not ashamed of

What do you like about rival channels like Aaj Tak and Star, and what
worries you?

I like their fighting spirit. Barring a few incidents, the fight has
been a healthy one. We've been good rivals. After we assumed the
number one spot, it has been like Harbhajan slapping Sreesanth. Prior
to this, the fight was fought in the right spirit. I have tremendous
respect for Aveek Sarkar, who heads Star News. I respect Aroon Purie,
who heads Aaj Tak. They have added new dimensions to Indian
journalism. Aveek Sarkar started Telegraph and Aroon Purie, India
Today. They are pioneers. When we see their channels doing this, we
are pained. But we won't be dragged into this dirty game. We won't
react, ridicule or abuse them.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 24, Dated June 21, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

सुनना मंगलेश डबराल को

क्‍या आपने अपनी मां से कुछ सुना है

बचपन के बाद कभी यह मौका लगा है कि आप अपनी मां के साथ बैठें और उससे उनकी कहानियां सुनें। उनके समय में चलने वाले किस्सेत,घटनाएं जिस रूप में उन तक पहुंचीं और जिस तरह से उन्होंने याद रखा है। कवि मंगलेश डबराल कहते हैं कि उनकी मां के पास जैसे किस्से थे, उनको अगर दर्ज किया होता तो वह कुछ उसी तरह की होती जिनका अनुभव हमें मारक्‍वेज के 'सौ सालों के एकांत' से गुजरते हुए होता है।
पिछले दिनों साहित्य अकादेमी और इंडिया इंटरनेशनल सेंटर ने आइआइसी सभागार में कवि मंगलेश डबराल से मुलाकात का कार्यक्रम रखा। जहां तक मेरा संपर्क रहा है मंगलेश जी बहुत कम बोलते हैं। बिल्कुल काम भर। उनका यह व्यक्तित्व उनकी कविताओं में भी झलकता है। अरसा हुआ बनारस में पुस्तक मेले में असद जैदी और संभवत: वीरेन डंगवाल के साथ उन्हें मंच पर बोलते हुए सुना था। तब वक्तव्य‍ से अधिक उन्होंने कविताओं को ही समय दिया था।
पहली बार उन्हें इस तरह मंच से कवि, लेखक और पत्रकार मित्रों के बीच सुनना बहुत ही अलग किस्मन का अनुभव था। वस्तुत: आम जीवन में व्यंक्ति औपचारिकताओं में इतना उलझा रहता है कि जो वह है दिखाई ही नहीं देता – सब ठीक तो है, ...और कैसे हैं, क्या चल रहा है, बहुत बढि़या या किसी तत्कालीन मुद्दे पर छोटी प्रतिक्रिया भर तक ही होता है। इस तरह कुल जमा ऐसे टुकड़े होते हैं जिनसे मुकम्मल तसवीर बना पाना कठिन होता है। वैसे तसवीरें तो एक वाक्यि और एक दरश से जो बननी होती हैं बन जाती हैं। लेकिन वह कितनी आधारहीन होती हैं, इसका अनुभव उपरोक्त किसी गहन संवाद के जरिये ही हो पाता है।
मंगलेश ने बचपन से लेकर अब तक के मुख्य पड़ावों, भटकावों, संघर्षों की चर्चा की (उपलब्धियों के बारे में हम लोग जानते ही हैं और बाकी सब आयोजकों की ओर से वितरीत कवि के परिचय में छपा हुआ था)। इसमें उनका पहाड़ विशेष रूप से उपस्थित था। पहाड़ी इलाके के स्वच्छ तारों भरे आसमान की चादर लपेटे धूल धूसरित आंखों वाले नगर और महानगरों में उनकी यात्रा को सुनना एक लंबी कविता से गुजरना था। बल्कि एक रोचक फिल्‍म कह सकते हैं जिसमें उनकी चुहल, भोलापन, सरोकार, चिंताएं और खीझ वाले खूबसूरत शॉट्स थे। बचपन से ही एम एम का प्रश्ना पत्र बनाने का उनका ख्वाुब बहुत रोचक था। उन्होंाने अपने समय के उभार का जिक्र किया जब सामाजिकता मुख्यु स्वरर था। 'मैं, मेरा' से अधिक 'हम और हमारा' का समय था। उन्होंने कुछ संदर्भ भी रखे जब एक की सफलता से कइयों का काम चलता था। सामाजिकता से एकाकीपन की ओर बढ़ते इस समय से वे खासे चिंतित दिखे। उनका दुख यह था कि हिन्दी कवि (इसमें कथाकारों और पत्रकारों को भी जोड़ा जा सकता है) सामाजिक स्वर नहीं बन सका। उन्होंने इस बाजारवादी समय में मोबाइल और कलावा संस्कृति, सांप्रदायिकता आदि पर भी अपनी चिंताएं और अनुभव रखे। उनकी यह चौंकाने वाली आत्‍मस्‍वीकृति कि मैं साठ का हो चुका हूं और मेरी आवाज का कोई असर नहीं है। या फिर यह कि क्‍या मैं यह कहते हुए किसी से हाथ मिला सकता हूं कि मैं कवि...... एक तरह से हिन्दी बौद्धिक जगत की आत्मस्वीकृति कही जा सकती है। गौर फरमाएं तो कोई बड़ा नाम नहीं दिखाई देता जिसको सुनने, समझने और मानने को हिन्दी समाज तत्पर हो। और जब उन्‍होंने यह कहा कि कभी कभी लगता है कि मेरा जन्‍म ही नहीं हुआ .... तो आप समझ सकते हैं किस अंदाज में उन्‍होंने डेढ़ दो घटे तक लोगों को बांधे रखा।