New Delhi: News of the government surviving a trust vote on the India-US nuclear deal grabbed headlines globally, with newspapers in the US giving it extensive coverage.
A front page story in The Wall Street Journal devoted 1,200 words under the headline: Indian Leader Survives Vote; Onus Now on U.S. Congress and was accompanied by television images of opposition parliamentarians holding up wads of rupees that they allegedly got to abstain from the vote.
The Journal, which sells some 1.8 million copies in the US, carried two related stories inside. One, which said the outcome of the vote was good news for the markets, and another on Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and his speech in the Lok Sabha. The story opened with the line: “If this was a tryout for India’s top government job, it didn’t go well.” The Wall Street Journal has an exclusive content partnership with Mint in India.
“When Singh rose to address the members, he was shouted down by opponents chanting, ‘Be ashamed, be ashamed,’ and ‘Thief,’” described the Washington Post in a 908-word story.
And The New York Times noted in a 900-word story that “even after the tortuous road to the nuclear agreement, India’s strategic relationship with the United States remains troubled by several major disagreements, including Indian policy on Iran and Myanmar.”
“A public already jaded by official corruption and political machinations still found room to be shocked by the allegations and the theatrics,” The Los Angeles Times reported in a 925-word story, adding: “Black day for Indian politics,” one news channel flashed across the screen. “Parliament’s shame,” declared another.
In the UK, The Guardian noted that the vote, which it described as “a knife-edge parliamentary vote of confidence”, came after “weeks of political horse-trading saw allegations of MPs being offered million-pound bribes, others being assured of Cabinet posts and bizarre claims that some had been kidnapped.”
The Financial Times noted that the government is now unshackled from its former Leftist allies and might be better placed to push ahead with economic reforms.
“The vote has in effect freed the Congress party from its former leftist parties, which previously supported the ruling coalition but had constrained the government’s ability to undertake economic reforms,” the paper said in a 667-word story.
“Indian government’s victory marred by bribery accusations,” said the Telegraph headline, while another UK paper, The Independent, headlined the story “Indian government sees off bribery charge to seal nuclear deal with US”.
Dubai’s Khaleej Times gave extensive coverage to the trust vote, leading with the story on the front page, headlined The great survival, in addition to four related stories inside and an editorial.
The South China Morning Post used an Associated Press copy, while China Daily used a story from China’s Xinhua news agency. Neighbouring Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper carried a single column story on its front page.
Fewer breaks as viewership peaks
News viewership peaked on Tuesday as households huddled before television sets to follow the confidence vote in Parliament. But, most news channels said they couldn’t cash in on the opportunity because commercial breaks would have meant losing viewers to rivals.
According to the Centre for Media Studies, an independent media research firm, all news channels, except state-run DD News, devoted 100% of their prime time (7pm-11pm) to the trust vote. DD News gave 209 minutes to the story, 12 minutes to other stories, and aired ads during the remaining time.
Among Hindi channels, Aaj Tak and Zee News spent 184 minutes each to cover the tense drama in Parliament. Star News devoted 208 minutes. Among English channels, NDTV 24x7 spent 209 minutes on the story, a minute more than CNN IBN.
In terms of viewership share, Aaj Tak led the Hindi news space with a rating of 0.26, according to data from Mumbai-based Audience Measurement and Analytics Ltd. India TV garnered the second largest share with a rating of 0.21, followed by Star News’ 0.18 and NDTV India’s 0.16, while Zee News and IBN7 tied on 0.14, twice that of DD News.
Lok Sabha TV, a division of the Lok Sabha Secretariat, ended with a rating of just 0.03 although it beamed the proceedings in Parliament live.
Most channels refrained from airing frequent commercials though they claimed advertisers had been scrambling for airtime.
“During a live development like Tuesday’s, we have very little room to run ads,” said Raj Nayak, chief executive, NDTV Media Ltd, the marketing and ad sales subsidiary of NDTV Ltd. “There was surely a lot of advertiser interest, but there was no scope,” he added.
Among English channels, NDTV 24x7 had the largest viewership rating of 0.10. Times Now was a close second, with 0.09, followed by CNN IBN’s 0.05. Headlines Today and NewsX both got a rating of 0.02. Ratings take into account net reach as well as time spent on a channel by viewers. So, even though Times Now had a higher net reach of 4.331 million households, ahead of NDTV 24x7’s 4.327 million, the latter enjoyed a higher rating on account of greater time spent on the channel.