A unique feature of our parliamentary democracy is its free media sustaining the very process, as in the case of periodic elections, nationally for Lok Sabha and state wise for Assemblies. NEWS media, in turn, flourishes from electoral politics. An important indicator of how free and fair our elections are could be seen from the way NEWS media facilitates the electoral process with its coverage.
The 16th general (Lok Sabha) elections 2014, could easily be considered a ‘wonder of the world‘, not just for the size, but also for the smoothness with which the 100-day spectacle was held. Since the 2004 elections, NEWS channels, often referred to as the hallmark of poll campaigns, have doubled in numbers and their coverage of elections has become professional and competitive to the extent of determining the process and even in making the very outcome obvious. Hence, the need to look into the trends in NEWS channels covering the poll processes has become critical.
CMS has been tracking a couple of prominent NEWS channels for nearly a decade and analyzing their contents. After round the clock monitoring of broadcasts for a couple of years, it was concluded that prime time coverage (7 to 11 PM) is sufficient to reflect the priorities of the day in view of unique nature of NEWS channels, repeat and replay coverage, including the visual footage as often during the day.
To bring out the nature of coverage of 2014 Lok Sabha election, CMS analysed the periodic reports of its Media Lab. Five news channels (two English and three Hindi), namely NDTV 24×7, Aajtak, ABP NEWS, Zee NEWS and CNN IBN, were tracked to reflect the scope of coverage of NEWS media in general and of NEWS channels in particular. This monograph presents highlights of this analysis.
NEWS media coverage of 2014 poll was unprecedented. Never before has NEWS media coverage of poll campaign been so polarised, (or should we say one directional), to the extent of pre determining the poll outcome. What started as AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal centric media coverage (at the announcement of the poll schedule), became Modi driven too soon and remained that way till the poll campaign ended.
Although the fight at the national level was between the incumbent Congress party led UPA and the BJP, the media coverage of Congress party was not even thirty percent at any point of the campaign. Even the coverage of Rahul Gandhi by NEWS channels was only about ten percent of the prime time given to Modi. It was interesting how Kejariwal’s campaign was relegated to a third position as the poll schedule advanced, phase after phase.