Should Indian TV introduce ‘equal coverage’?


The relationship between Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and the media, especially “English maedia” as he puts it, has followed two distinct trends over the last ten years.

The first trend was of unbridled distrust on either side. Modi had nothing but contempt for those who sought to buttonhole him on the ghastly incidents of 2002. He walked out of TV interviews or stared blankly at interviewers who reminded him of his role, if any. Ours was not to question.

The media, not surprisingly, responded with circumspection bordering on suspicion.

The second trend emerged in the run-up to the 2012 assembly elections in Gujarat, which Modi used as his launchpad, first to become the chairman of the BJP campaign committee and thereafter as the BJP’s self-proclaimed “prime ministerial candidate”. Suddenly, influential sections of the media were eating out of his hands.

International news agencies were getting soft-ball interviews, top journalists were asking if there was a middle-ground; media groups with corporate backing host tailor-made conferences; friendly newspapers were getting 16-page advertising supplements; “bureau chiefs” were finding stories that showed Modi’s detractors in poor light.

Why, the coverage of Modi seems to have been a key editorial driver in the recent change of guard at The Hindu, and—pinch yourself—Modi was launching an edition of Hindu Business Line.

The key player in the turnaround of the Modi-media relationship, however, has been television, which has unabashedly been used and turned into a soapbox for advertising the latest detergent from the land of Nirma that promises to wipe Indian democracy clean.

To the exclusion of all else.

As Modi—decidedly more macho, muscular, articulate and telegenic than the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi—drives his brandwagon around the country, most news TV channels have dropped any pretence of trying to stay non-partisan, covering every speech or parts of it, conducting opinion polls, setting up nightly contests, etc, as if the end of the world is nigh.

All this, of course, is before the Election Commission’s model code kicks in.

In the Indian Express, Shailaja Bajpai asks an important question: has the time has come to consider “equal coverage”—where all players, not just Modi and Rahul but even leaders of smaller parties get equal space and time—so that the field is not unduly distorted?

“Countries such as the United States try to follow the idea of equal coverage especially in the run-up to an election — and especially after a politician is declared as the official candidate, as Modi has been.

“Recently, the Republicans threatened that TV channels, NBC and CNN, would not be allowed to telecast the party’s next presidential debates because NBC had planned a TV series and CNN a documentary about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Indian news channels don’t let minor matters like equality trouble them. They’re obsessed with the man, to the point that Modi-fixation has become a clinical condition which may soon require treatment.”

Read the full story: The chosen one

Photograph: courtesy NewsX

Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective  TRP

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14 Responses to “Should Indian TV introduce ‘equal coverage’?”

  1. Balasubrahmanyan Krishnaswami Says:

    equal coverage! who will watch Bardhan or Raja, Akilesh,Muslim chachas of SP,Mulayam Vekaiah more than once and for more than 2 minutes. TV will cover if you are interesting and have something new to say and deliver it effectively! Bah Niraja !

  2. harkol Says:

    I read a comment somewhere that – Kejriwal by choice, Modi by no-choice.

    It is amusing but accurate description of what is happening in India. Modi most probably will lead BJP to their best ever victory. Even better than what they won with the excellent Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

    Indian electorate have been pushed so hard by Congress, so done in by the corrupt & venal forces who like to bandy themselves as ‘third front’ that more and more people are pushed to elect a man who they don’t totally trust, whose earlier actions they don’t totally agree with.

    Atleast this man has a clean personal integrity and good economic governance record. His only blot was the 2002 incidence. A horrible record no doubt, but way better than anyone else in post-2002.

    Yes, he is a bit blunt, brash and harsh. Yes, he may be a little dictatorial (not much more than Gandhis anyway). Yes, he may end up carrying a RSS agenda – but, then all these risks are nothing in front of giving another term to UPA.

    I have always hope the day will never come when someone like Modi will be PM. But, in past year or so, I have changed my mind. Modi is the best bet to kick out the UPA, and bring in sensible economics.

    The media has always been biased against anyone who spoke up against the establishment (in India that means Gandhi Family). After all, when have the media crucified Gandhi Family member’s flaws like they have of any one else?

    Has Vadra been hounded? Has any Gandhi family member ever been questioned hard? Barkha Dutt’s of the world are harsh on folks like Modi, but throw soft balls at Sonia or Priyanka (Rahul never having given an interview)!! Have they ever been questioned on Bofors? What about their husband/father’s role in 1984? WHat about the emergency of their MIL/grand mother? Have they been ever questioned harshly on Vadra’s dealings?

    But, when Modi walks in they can’t think beyond 2002. Even after he answers them in some innane, polite, sidestepping way, they insist on hearing an answser they’d like to listen – i.e. an Apology or self-flagellation. Modi being a proud, unbending (even arrogant) man that he is – will not give media what it wants.

    So, we had this spectacle of Media flaming a man way above what he deserved, and talking reverentially of a family that has ruined India’s economy repeatedly.

  3. Mysore Peshva Says:

    Harkol: Your analysis makes excellent sense, as usual. :)

  4. Deepak Says:

    If you really believe that TV is biased IN FAVOUR OF Modi, I am sorry to say that either you are delusional or a bad journalist. Every night the likes of CNN-IBN and NDTV run discussions with panels loaded against Modi and run a high pitch ‘Modi malign campaign’. If you believe that this is pro-Modi, I don’t know what to say.

    If you feel there is too much coverage of Modi, it is because thats what the people want. If the paid media ignores him, then they will have to shut down. So their showing Modi is their compulsion and the coverage is definitely not positive, it is usually negative. So kindly wake up and see whats happening.

  5. Shemej Says:

    If Indian Corporate media is obsessed with Modi, then, that shows, their poor insight. Every corporate and every one with vested interest is busy praising Modi. A good example is Swamy, who started demanding SPG security for Modi, by pleasing this man, hoping that he can get finance minister post, if he comes to power.

    One problem with influential community members (be this “community” – caste group or business families) they always think, they have better insight than the rest. Cho Ramaswamy has been keep advising against Dravidian parties for more than 40 years, those who listen to his advises always sat in the opposition. Yet, Cho Ramaswamy believes, he is eligible to advise political leaders.

    Let us assume that a few more communal violence and a serial bomb blast some where closer to Mangalore/Bangalore/Shimoga will help NDA to come to power. So what?

    What these corporate do not see is the larger picture. Is NDA growing in India? And is this group going to wield clout on Indian society for the next 20 years? Even if this NDA comes to power how long is it going to last? What are these corporate going to achieve?

    Contrary to that, a lady who was born in Mysore has better chance of becoming PM (immediately after the 2014 election or after the fall of the first coalition arrangement (with the backing of NDA or UPA Plus Left, as the second govt).

    Who is the biggest threat to Modi? Ironically, it is this impulsive and naive leader whom Cho Ramaswamy advices to become junior partner to Modi. Whom these Chanakyas advises to utilize the service of left cadres during the campaign and then utilize the fluid political situation to dump Left parties to embrace NDA.

    I just mentioned Cho as one example. (Cho himself may not be doing all these) He represents what the rest of vested interests do. When will these people realize that even a coalition which ousts Congress from power needs the outside support of (one of the break-away) faction of Congress or the undivided Congress. Again, what are these Corporate going to gain?

    If Arvind Kejriwal wins 20 – 25 seats from Delhi, wouldn’t that embolden AAP to field more candidates during 2014 loksabha elections or not? And whose urban votes Kejriwal is going to divide? Again, who is going to be at loss?

    The model of media business itself is crumbling. Tell me which newspaper in India, increased its readership during the last 10 years, despite the impressive growth in circulation? And who doesnt know that “increase in circulation = more loss” and increase in readership = more advt revenue, and we all know what is the cost per single copy and what is the real revenue of media. And we all know that the TV media is only a transitional phenomena, before internet media takes dominance.

    No wonder, all media groups are losing. And still they think they are super intelligent management guys.

    A victory for Modi, may be a short term relief for BJP, til that govt falls due to internal contradictions. But what will happen to BJP if it fails to get the vote of confidence after the President calls the single largest pre-poll alliance leader to form the govt? All committed leaders with long term association with BJP are sidelined. How many of these BJP leaders in what directions they will jump, only time will tell. Who is going to rebuild BJP after that? Are Gujarati Hotel owners from USA going to return back to India to wear kakhi chaddies and work for Modi to rebuild Rashitriya Swamasevak Sangh once again?

    10 years back, all these corporate were praising Chandra Babu Naidu. 5 yeas back these corporates were praising Brand Budha. Now it is Modi, who is praised.

    Thanks God! Nobody is praising me. And Churumuri will not even publish this comment as usual. That at least indicates, I am not going to perish like Chandra Babu Naidu, Brand Budha and Modi….. Let us see…

  6. Sahil Says:

    Did I read it right? Is Modi making Indian media introspect now?

  7. Goldstar Says:

    @harkol and deepak, correctly said. As usual this blogger gets confused and equates coverage with pro-Modi coverage. The English media coverage is totally distorted and pro-Congis.

  8. yayaver Says:

    I don’t see any change in vote pattern due to TV coverage. I assume that people had already decided to vote on the basis of their affiliation to their region, religion and caste.

    Do we have really a choice between communal and authoritarian NaMo versus Stupid and Ignorant RaGa ?

  9. Anonymous Guy Says:

    RSS chaddis, cool down. Your bleating on the internet forums more than makes up for any real or perceived injustice by the media towards you beloved fuhrer Modi.

    Elections is still a few months away, but remember whatever you write here will stay after that :)

    Like the time you guys thought BJP would win in Karnataka after Modi campaigned here. Have some patience.

    And you dont have to worry, our media will crawl and learn to behave if Modi comes to power. After all they have to eat too.

  10. Objectivist Mantra Says:

    I definitely don’t like the news coverage in India. It seems as if Rakhi Sawant has become the Editor-in-Chief of Times Now and every other news channel. But I would also like to remind the readers of this blog, that TV channels (barring that tax-parasite entity called DD) are privately owned. They are “Private Property.” So it depends on the owners and the editors of the channel to decide what kind of coverage they want to give to which political party or organisation. Just Churmuri is privately owned, its writing depends on the mind of the people who own this blog, the TV channels too are free to decide. If we fall into the ditch of equal coverage it will lead us to a strange Animal Farm like universe, where all animals deserve equal coverage, barring the “pigs” who being more equal than the others would deserve special coverage. Now who would decide who the “Pigs” are? Naturally, the notorious breed of leftist intellectuals….

  11. Goldstar Says:


    >>But what will happen to BJP if it fails to get the vote of confidence after the President calls the single largest pre-poll alliance leader to form the govt?

    Instead of worrying what will happen to BJP if it fails to get the vote, worry what will happen to the Congress if the same thing happens.

    If there is much weakened Congress led govt (with Cong winning 140-150 seats) the “allies” will have a field day. DMK/Pawar/Mullah Yadav must already be licking there fingers on this prospect. Ra Ga will be reduced to signing “CBI clean chits” to allies and giving Padma awards to friendly journalists.

    If there is non-Congress led UPA govt, do you see Ra Ga working under a Mulayam or a Sharad Pawar? He will be off in a jiffy to Spain or Colombia or wherever he goes vacation frequently. And imagine the arrogant PC or Kapil Sibal working under Mulayam. It will be a hoot!

    BJP will survive not being in the Govt, since they will have moral high ground ( as they most likely will be single largest party ).

  12. narayana, narayana Says:

    Where can Modi trip? The Congress dangling cold cash to the voters, Mulayam and the Third Front gathering votes from their caste-men, the silent disgruntled in BJP who will work with the opposition, the chatterati discussing Modi on forums like this and staying at home or going out of town on voting day…
    Media is positively anti-Modi controlled as it is by moneybags beholden to Congress for generations or by the Church controlled live media that will root for Sonia.
    Right now, it looks like it will be a miracle if Modi makes it to Delhi…though he is a far better choice than anyone from the Dynasty.

  13. shiv Says:

    Barring Arnab, rest consisting of Barkha,rajdeep and their spouses/boyfriends,hangers on will all runaway the moment Modi gets to be PM.We have had more than 66 years of this english speaking left leaning leeches who have hardly done a day’s honest job.Good riddence these bunch of jollahwallahs

  14. Shemej Says:

    “If Arvind Kejriwal wins 20 – 25 seats from Delhi, wouldn’t that embolden AAP to field more candidates during 2014 loksabha elections or not? And whose urban votes Kejriwal is going to divide? Again, who is going to be at loss?”

    This is what I posted on 1st November 2013. Interestingly BJP leaders yesterday (when the results for the Delhi/ Chattisgarh, Rajastan and Madhyapradesh were out) were insisting that AAP will not divide their vote. And they were keep repeating this argument to again again convince some unknown, invisible , unidentified people…. Were they convincing themselves or others?

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