NEW DELHI, INDIA — Stop the presses — here’s some good news for the news biz.
In the home of The Times of India, the largest circulation English-language newspaper in the world, business is booming with 105,443 different dailies and weeklies — a staggering 5,817 new titles in 2014-15 alone.
India’s fast-growing economy is why Premier Kathleen Wynne is leading an Ontario trade mission here, and delegates on the trip have been impressed by the dizzying array of publications available at every stop on their itinerary.
Readership of papers is up 5.8 per cent and viewership of TV news channels is rising even though Indian media companies face the same challenges from free news websites as their Canadian counterparts.
There are about 80 all-news television channels in India, broadcasting in many languages.
But, with a little Canadian know-how, there is room for one more.
Toronto’s George Hoff, a former top CBC News manager who also works with CP24, is here helping Indian media giant Zee Media to launch a still-unnamed English-language news channel later this spring.
“This is a vibrant media market,” Hoff said in an interview Friday.
“It’s growing. Where else has every newspaper increased its circulation year over year?” he said, contrasting India with the grim media outlook in Canada where hundreds of jobs have been eliminated at Postmedia, Rogers, Torstar, and Bell Media in recent months.
Hoff said from a news junkie’s perspective there is a positive perfect storm brewing in India.
“There’s a hunger for information and there’s a growing middle class. It’s a cliché but ‘aspirational India’ exists. People want more,” he said, emphasizing that soaring literacy rates are also contributing to the explosion of new media outlets.
Zee Media, which operates two national and eight regional channels, expects its forthcoming all-news station will eventually employ 300 journalists, producers and camera operators, and have bureaus all over India as well as in New York and London.
Its chief news editor is Rohit Gandhi, an Indian journalist who received his master’s at Ottawa’s Carleton University before working for the CBC in Asia.
Unlike the dozens of existing news channels here, the start-up is aimed at a global audience like CNN International or BBC World.
“This will be a South Asia lens on the world — and that doesn’t really exist right now,” said Hoff, who is here consulting for six months to help get the channel off the ground.
While there is excitement about a new media voice, there are headaches.
“There are huge challenges — as in anything, finding the right people is hard,” he said, noting the new station will be available on a tablet and smartphone app as well as online and over the air.
“We are looking for journalists. If you want tell good stories, we want to hear from you; if you like to report, we want to hear from you; if you can operate a camera, we want to hear from you.”