Everyone 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
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.