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The Complete Channel Man


From joining the profession when there were no dedicated news channels to helping start as many as three news channels from scratch, Sudheer Chowdhary has certainly done his bit. Agnibesh Das takes a closer look
AGNIBESH DAS | New Delhi, August 3, 2012 17:56
Tags : sudhi chowdhary |

Before he can finish his answer to the first question, Sudheer Chowdhary gets interrupted four times with people poking their heads into the office, asking him something or the other. After the last interruption, he smiles and says, “I am sorry. But this is the fun of a news channel  I guess.”  Well, he would know, being one of the first TV journalists of the country, working the medium even before there were any dedicated news channels.

Indeed, he has been one of the pioneers of television journalism. “I always knew that I wanted to be a journalist and that I wanted to be a television journalist to be specific,” says he. That was a huge gamble to take way back in 1994, when he graduated from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. TV meant Doordarshan – essentially a free medium. There were doubts if the public would respond favourably when they were asked to pay it. Thankfully, a few years later, the media boom would hit the market and he would ride it straight to the top.

Chowdhary got a job with TV 18, who were still a production company, as a reporter. In 1995, Zee News was being launched as a half an hour news bulletin on Zee TV. Chowdhary joinedin the same capacity. He would continue with the channel after it became a 24 hour news channel. He would go on to become a political correspondent and anchor the news analysis show, Prime Time at 9:30 every night. As a journalist he was doing quite well. “When I was with Zee, it was the most sought after brand. And at the highest platform, I was anchoring their biggest show,” he says.

In 2002, the Sahara group was launching their news channel, which would go on to become Sahara Samay. In what later turned into a familiar feature of his career, Chowdhary left his job with the now established Zee News and joined the fledging company. He explains the move thus: “I always wanted to learn more and take myself to the next level. I was getting the opportunity to create a completely new team at Sahara. It was a very big learning experience for me.”

His stint at Sahara would not be very long either. In 2004, he would leave Sahara to join another start-up – India TV. In 2007, Chowdhary’s  urge to learn more and break new ground would again make him shift, taking him to Janmat as CEO which he would rebrand as Live TV. “Till India TV, I had basically been a content person. I wanted to learn distribution, I wanted to learn sales. Basically, I wanted to learn a channel as a whole, to be a complete channel person,” he says.

His stint as CEO would be the most challenging, with him launching a general entertainment channel (GEC), Me Marathi. This would be a whole new learning curve for Chowdhary, who was, till then, just a journalist. But he managed just fine and Me Marathi is still a popular GEC in Maharashtra. He has recently returned to Zee as business head and editor.

Speaking of TV journalism as he sees it, Chowdhary says: “It is like a coffee shop. The consumer can walk in anytime and ask for anything. There is no appointment viewing.”

In Chowdhary’s opinion, the charge of diluting the news that TV faces is not completely well founded. “Newspapers carry the same content and the same pictures. Just because they have separate pages, they can say ‘We are carrying this because it is Page 3, or Delhi Times’. TV has no pages. There is just one screen and we have to accommodate everything there. So frivolous stuff will be there alongside hard news. But when we carry such things, they say ‘You are doing it just for TRP’,” he says.

He does agree however that TRP is a factor.  “TRP is our only currency. So we have to show what grabs the eyeballs. My market research says frivolous sells. As soon as you go serious, people stop watching you. You are basically asking us to play nothing but test cricket and then compete with IPL for popularity. I want to appeal to every viewer, please do not treat us like film producers. We are journalists, we are meant to inform, not entertain. The choice between ratings and quality is an extremely difficult one and every news channel is faced with it. This really needs to change. ”

About internet he says it is the next big thing in media. He adds that now is the best time to get in as there is a huge boom coming.

For budding journalists, he says, “The key is responsibility. You have to be very, very  responsible. If you know your stuff and are honest and responsible, you will succeed.” 

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Posted By: Vinod | Faridabad | June 23rd 2013 | 16:06
I m a big fan of Sudhir sir. I joineed media in 2006 and sudhir ji was my first inspiration. So I can say he is inspiring my youngesters for this meedia field.
Posted By: Rohit Agarwal | New Delhi | August 9th 2012 | 18:08
It's Sudhir not sudheer, ghe complete Channel Man, Great Interview but too short.

Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017