New Delhi: Targeted for physical attacks and slammed for pulling his fledgling Delhi government after only 49 days in power, Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), still led heavyweight political leaders in primetime coverage across five television news channels, according to a study by CMS Media Lab, part of the Centre for Media Studies (CMS) research house.
Kejriwal grabbed 429 minutes (over seven hours), or 28%, of the total 1,521 minutes (25.35 hours) top news channels spent covering political leaders between 1-15 March, said the content analysis released on Monday.
In spite of claims of a Modi wave, the Bharatiya Janta Party’s (BJP’s) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi managed 365 minutes (23%) of primetime news. The Congress party’s vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, took a distant third spot with only 72 minutes (4.7%) devoted to him in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.
“Television has a tendency to pick negative characteristics during its coverage. They need the drama and Arvind Kejriwal fits the bill. He is suitable for primetime because he attacks Modi, Rahul Gandhi among various others,” said Prabhakar Kumar, head of CMS Media Lab.
Kejriwal has known how to be in the limelight from the days spent campaigning for anti-graft activist Anna Hazare, Kumar added.
“In the case of Modi, he does too many rallies which don’t make it to primetime,” said Kumar. However, the coverage of Kejriwal is more negative than that of Modi.
The channels studied for the study are Aaj Tak, ABP News, Zee News, NDTV 24x7 and CNN IBN. The findings are based on primetime coverage between 8pm and 10pm.
Among regional leaders, Lalu Prasad of Bihar got 3% of coverage time, while Raj Thackeray (Maharashtra), Nitish Kumar (Bihar), Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav (Uttar Pradesh) followed with 2-1.5%.
When it came to political parties, too, Kejriwal’s AAP did well: while the BJP took top slot for election-related coverage with 369 minutes, AAP came a close second with 345 minutes of the total 1,101 minutes. The Congress party again stood at third place with 193 minutes.
Both party-wise and leader-wise, the coverage analysis shows the Congress faces defeat, the study said.
While the fight on ground is clearly between the Congress and the BJP, the election coverage on television showed a different trend—a fight between the BJP and AAP, said Kumar.
Among election topics, Hindutva was one of the top issues covered with 1,417 minutes (21%) attributed to it of the total 6,721 minutes studied, followed by development and corruption.
Elections go through phases as does news coverage, according to Sevanti Ninan, editor of the media watch website Thehoot.org and a Mint columnist.
“The trends have changed now. Kejriwal has dropped behind Modi and Rahul in coverage, Hindutva got less importance once the BJP manifesto came out, ticket distribution has subsequently climbed up as a topic of coverage. Corruption too has dropped lower in the list as an issue,” Ninan said by email. “Even regional leaders are getting increasing coverage now. There is nothing static about coverage trends in a process spread over months.”
Ninan criticized the main findings. “Assertions made here which are no longer true: the main fight between BJP and AAP. It never really was; you can’t judge by TV noise,” said Ninan.
“Arvind Kejriwal has definitely made himself available for news channels. Besides, in March, he was very actively involved with his campaign trail and roadshows,” said Shivraj Prasad, a New Delhi-based image coach for politicians and founder of Brevis, a capacity building firm.
“The BJP has definitely made its spokesperson(s) aggressive across news channels. Their response is far quicker than any other party. While Congress has rather weak speakers on TV apart from, say, Abhishek Manu Singhvi,” added Prasad.
Prasad agreed the trend has changed, saying, “Both Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi are slugging it off right now. It’s definitely become a hardcore BJP versus Congress war across platforms.”