The Media and Mr. Modi

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Time LeaderEveryone who is anyone is busy predicting a magnificent return to power of the BJP and the election of Modi as our Prime Minister. They may very well be right but it got me thinking about the media’s role in these elections. The spread of television and mobile phones has meant that more people have access to television media, making their coverage more important than ever before.

What/Who has the media been covering this election season? Today, I look at data on prime time (8-10 pm) coverage of the elections between March 1st and April 30th, 2014 in 5 major news channels.

Graph 1 looks at the issues covered in these elections, Graph 2 looks at party wise coverage and Graph 3 looks at coverage of individual leaders. As always, click ont he grapghs to get an enlarged view. A huge shout out to the CMS Media Lab for sharing their data with me.


Issue Wise Coverage 


Party Wise Coverage 


Leader Wise Coverage 

Time Leader

It is clear that individual leaders have been getting more attention than ever before. India adopts a Parliamentary, not Presidential, system but it would be difficult to ascertain that from watching the election coverage. Personalities dominate political parties and agendas. Governance and development, which many claim are the base of these elections, account for less than 5% of the coverage.

It is also clear that certain leaders are media darlings. It becomes difficult to think of second rung leadership and local politicians in this context. The BJP and AAP are the two biggest victims of this phenomenon. No other leader in either party comes close in the media. All of the other BJP leaders seemed to have disappeared behind the overwhelming media presence of Modi. And this means that if the NDA is indeed elected to power, we know little of the individuals who are being elected. Who are the potential cabinet and state ministers? More importantly, do we even care?

There have been several questions about the freedom of Indian media. Several high profile hires and fires in print and news media are rumoured to be politically motivated. Given their increasing influence in the common imagination, this would be a good time for media houses to seriously think about their role and responsibility in covering news.


3 thoughts on “The Media and Mr. Modi

    rohit said:
    May 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    hi… i came across this on a facebook share, so plz don’t mind my unsolicited comments, but a couple of issues… 1) shouldn’t it matter, also, while noting media coverage, that one note whether it is positive or negative (a la the NYT poll)? 2) in a situation where TV news channels (since your criticism seems directed primarily at them) are forced to compete on equal terms with entertainment channels for advertisers – which decides how much they can spend on their staff and the quality of their coverage, is it not natural that they will pay more attention to an issue or a personality that is likely to generate more audience interest? in that context, is not the allegation of a media bias blatantly unfair? 3) it was really the BJP (and even before that, the Congress) who made this a personality election by projecting the 2 respectively as their mastheads… even the AAP played the media card very well, and Kejriwal was a conscious choice as face of the party… so, all in all, isn’t the castigation of the media a little too harsh? at the same time, i do agree that the media has failed in its task of educating the public effectively, and instead helped turn the entire election process into a mega spectacle (the fact that it lasted for a MONTH didn’t help either… but, again, it seems that the people of the country want that and the media can hardly be charged with changing the will of the nation!! cheers

    Hiren Shah said:
    May 15, 2014 at 6:25 am

    Nicely written article. It is true indeed that the other BJP leaders got somewhat obscured by Modi. However, the main point is that Modi is trying to get elected on the plank of development and merit instead of temple or caste or dynasty like some other people and party. There maybe over focus on Modi but why should there be any focus on Kejriwal or Rahul Gandhi- what are their achievements vis-a vis Modi. Kejrtiwal may have brought in some fresh perspective but being honest and not being experienced or competent can be equally bad. What is Rahul Gandhi minus the Gandhi name? For details, you can read my latest blog article on how Lal bahadur Shastri got elected.

    […] personality-driven media climate surrounding this election and his subsequent win has left little room for serious critique of Mr. Modi’s policies or […]

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