Two decades of NDTV


In the last two decades, Indian television has been virtually re-invented. Bang at the centre of its evolution stands New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV), whose own milestones have virtually been a series of ‘firsts’ for Indian news broadcasting. 

That NDTV was destined to revolutionise tele-viewing in India was a writing that appeared on the wall as early as 1988, a full twenty years before the brand emerged from its embryonic state. 

New Delhi Television, as it was then called, launched a new show, The World This Week. This was the first of its many milestones that would also become the firsts for the Indian telecasting industry. The privately-produced weekly half-hour aired on Friday nights on Doordarshan. 

The show instantly established new standards for objective and credible reporting. NDTV’s reporters were at the scene of every major international event, driving home India’s perspective on world affairs. 

In that sense, New Delhi Television attempted India’s rise to international eminence by being the precursor that established an Indian point of view on world opinion. Till today, Indians all over the world say that Friday nights and The World This Week, belong together, in their collective memory.

Speaking to us, KVL Narayan Rao, CEO, NDTV Group, said, “NDTV has always been a pioneer, the first private producer of news in India, the first with several programming formats, the first to use beta cam, the first to go digital. It has been a remarkable journey – wonderful, enriching, educative and challenging. We began as a production house and are now one of the most credible and respected media houses in the country and this part of the world.”

“We have also transformed from a news organisation to a total media company, moving into entertainment, lifestyle, new media, technology and media outsourcing. That has been a fantastic journey too. News, of course, remains our first love and will always be a huge part of what NDTV is recognised for as we expand into the international arena. The journey ahead is going to be as exciting too and I look forward to the next 20 years and more.” Rao says about the NDTV evolution.

The early commercial and critical success of its flagship programme allowed NDTV to break newer and bigger ground quickly. It became the country’s first private news producer, a beginning that marked the end of the era of government-controlled TV news. As the country’s market leader today, it repeatedly raises the bar for television journalism with award-winning programmes, recognised and knowledgeable reporters, incisive analysis and world-class technology. 

The biggest reward and honour any one in the public domain can hope to achieve is the trust of people. In India, NDTV is seen as an honest, unbiased, fearless crusader. Its sterling reputation built over years of path-breaking journalism is recognised by audiences across the country. 

But even as it enjoys the confidence of the people it is also elated at the professional recognition that it has received from peers and contemporaries. NDTV is the first Indian producer to win an Emmy award for its work. It has also been named the Best Cable and Satellite Channel in Asia by Asian Television Awards. 

The brand is home to the country’s finest broadcast talent. Anchors like Prannoy Roy, Barkha Dutt, Vikram Chandra, Nidhi Kulpati, Sreenivasan Jain, Sonia Verma and Sonali Chander have won several industry awards and have a huge fan following. Shows like We the People, The Big Fight and Jai Jawan have pioneered new formats for television. While anchors, the public face of a channel, are extensively recognised for their reportage it isn’t often that the back boys – the engineering teams which bring telecast into homes – gain prominence. 

At NDTV the engineering team has been internationally acknowledged for its high standards and extensive technological innovations. It has won the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association Award for three consecutive years, beating stiff competition from organisations like the BBC and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Amongst other international honours are six Promax awards for Outstanding Promos for News and Current Affairs. 

In 1984, a Chartered Accountant who was also a trained psychologist was introduced as the new centre point of televised coverage of India’s general elections. His prediction of the results proved to be uncannily accurate. 

But it was his ability to translate complicated facts into simple analysis that turned Dr. Prannoy Roy into the journalist who India would depend on, night after night, for its news. Since then, Prannoy Roy, chairman of NDTV has anchored thousands of hours of live coverage of Indian elections and the government’s annual budget. 

Equally responsible for leading NDTV’s tremendous growth is Radhika Roy. Her team relies on her editorial expertise to cover breaking news. In the mid 1980s, Radhika, a journalist at the Indian Express, recognised the endless possibilities that TV offered as a news medium. She traveled to the United States to study television and returned to India to co-found NDTV. 

Radhika and Prannoy’s first episode of The World This Week aired on November 25, 1988. The show was a run-away success, providing Doordarshan with a huge weekly hit, bringing in record-breaking revenue. 

“The currency of news journalism is credibility and that has been our main quest always. The winning formula for news channels is ‘ethics and credibility’. It is the only strategy one should have, in the short and the long term. It applies to everything we do. We believe that news is a serious business and we will always be a high quality, credible and responsible journalists and producers. We will not go down the tabloid route ever.” Rao adds.

In an article in The Times of India, it has been rated as one of India’s Top Five Shows since Independence. In 1989, NDTV produced India’s first live televised coverage of the country’s general elections. Six years later in February 1995, NDTV became the country’s first private producer of the national news bulletin The News Tonight. 

In 1998, NDTV was the sole content provider for the 24-hour news channel, Star News. But the company’s biggest milestone was marked on April 14, 2003, when NDTV launched two 24-hour news channels: NDTV 24×7 in English and NDTV India in Hindi. 

In January 2005, the company launched a third 24-hour news channel, NDTV Profit. In September 2007 the company moved into a niche space with an English metro-based channel that is locally focused in both its content and revenue model. Metro Nation Delhi is the first of the five FTA channels the company has rolled out. 

Today, the NDTV network spans the Indian television space with a huge foot print that cuts across ideological barriers and geographical boundaries. It is across this firmament that the brand rules. The company has also launched an entertainment network NDTV Imagine Ltd. 

NDTV has launched Good Times, a lifestyle channel that targets a largely cosmopolitan, socially upbeat audience who lives in style and enjoys every moment of life. NDTV has come together with the Kingfisher Brand in a first-of-its-kind media alliance for the promotion of NDTV Good Times. 

NDTV has launched its first channel outside India in partnership with Astro, a leading South East Asia media group. Astro Awani launched in Indonesia, is a 24-hour news, infotainment and lifestyle channel. NGEN Media Services, a joint venture between NDTV and Genpact, is an industry first, offering post production and other services to companies anywhere in the world.

“Starting November 25, we have launched a series of 3 minutes vignettes encapsulating NDTV’s coverage of various events over the last two decades. Also marking the 20 years celebration, we will be carrying half hour specials once a month over the next one year, which will be on topics as varied as the Tsunami, Kargil, Malnutrition & Hunger, 20 years of Election coverage in India, Gujarat and others.” Rao says about the celebrated aspirations. 

“The first in these series of documentaries would be The Ballad Of The Ballot, which will feature a chronicle of 20 years of NDTV’s tryst with elections, seen from the eyes of the insiders. Who made the coverage what it was. For an event that meant democracy to India , this meant reaching out in new ways. With a fresh pool of ideas, technology and talent.” Rao concludes.


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