Q] The news space is already cluttered, what is the thought behind launching another news channel?
For the last few years I have stopped watching news channels. The reason is simple, whenever I watched news it was just arguments, there was no debate and no news. As someone who has been a part of News TV for close to 25 years, this was disturbing. We cannot remain mute spectators. It’s time to disrupt News TV and bring back news.
I believe news should have its own flow. There is no need to create news and make it unnecessarily dramatic, like we see today across most networks. Looking at what is happening in the news space today, there is no doubt that it will be challenging to get the current viewer used to a different flavour of news. I am talking about news that is direct, touches real issues, but we are up for the task because we want to give them a taste of real journalism.
Our editorial take will be different. We will have just one debate show and our focus will be on providing more news and lesser views. Even if this comes at the cost of lesser ratings or lesser revenue initially, we will not compromise on our editorial stand.
Q] Any network is as good as its people, give us an idea of the big names that will be part of Bharat Express?
In today’s time, it’s not easy to find talent that aligns with your vision, it took us many months to put together an exceptional team. We received over two thousand applications for various roles, and after a rigorous hiring process we have put together a great team. My vision is to make Bharat Express a niche news content company, and this vision will be enabled by some of the industry veterans whom we have roped in.
Some of the big names who will help me realise this vision are Saurabh Sinha, who has joined us as advisor and mentor; Anurag Singh, who will join us from Zee News; and we have also roped in veteran journalist Deepak Chaursia, who will host a prime time show on the channel among other renowned names from the industry.
We have also recruited young talent who have not been to any formal media college or university, and this is a deliberate approach. We believe that journalists learn more on the job than from formal education.
Q] You are also planning a full-fledged business channel and regional channels in UP and Uttarakhand, tell us more about that. How soon are you rolling out those?
We will be launching these channels in a phased manner, the first one will be launched after six months. By 2024, our UP and Uttarakhand channels will go live.
Q] If you look at the current revenue models across News TV, it presents a dismal scenario, revenues are going down, sponsors are cutting ad spends, in such an environment, what will be your business strategy?
While I agree that the current revenue models are not delivering, it does not mean that the news business has no scope. This is the time to pivot, to deliver more value to the sponsors and viewers and all the stakeholders. One has to rethink and reimage the news space, and see how one can deliver maximum value with limited resources. This will define our business strategy too.
Also, when I look at my life journey so far, things have worked in favour of me, and I go with that belief as we launch Bharat Express.
Q] What is your view on the ratings system?
I don’t want to say much on that, but at the same time we will not just be working for the ratings alone, I’m very clear on this. It will always be news first for us.
Upendra Rai has over 25 years of experience in journalism. Currently he is the Chairman, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of Bharat Express News Network. Earlier he was the CEO and Editor-in-Chief at Sahara India Media. He has worked as CEO and Editor-in-Chief at Tehelka as well.