Kolkata: West Bengal’s Marxist-controlled government is using television to spread the word that the state remains a friend of investors, attempting to overcome the damage done to its image by the organized resistance to land acquisition for big-ticket projects in Singur and Nandigram.
The government has launched a campaign on national television channels such as CNBC-TV18, NDTV 24x7 and Zee Sports with the aim of wooing business houses at a time when investment across the country is slowing down, says West Bengal’s director of information Niloy Ghosh.
The government has traditionally used regional television channels and newspapers to air promotional campaigns, and, according to Ghosh’s rough estimate, spent about Rs3 crore on advertising on local networks ahead of the village council elections in May. “But now the focus is on national television channels because the state needs to woo investors,” said Ghosh, who wouldn’t, however, admit that the state was trying to rebuild its image.
Building confidence: The Tata Motors factory site in Singur. The government has launched the campaign to undo the damage done to its image by resistance to land acquisition for projects such as the one in Singur. (Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint)
CNBC-TV18 was commissioned to shoot three 22-minute documentaries, which focused on information technology companies, manufacturers and infrastructure in the eastern state. Each was telecast twice on CNBC-TV18 by last Sunday, and to drive traffic towards these special shows, the channel ran 50 30-second promos this month.
The documentaries didn’t touch upon controversial issues such as the unrest in Singur, site of Tata Motors Ltd’s Nano car plant, and Nandigram, where Indonesia’s Salim group had proposed to set up a chemical hub. There is, however, one passing mention of the Tata factory having put the state on the radar of automobile manufacturers.
A CNBC-TV18 producer, who worked on the documentaries, said on condition of anonymity, “The key import of the first two episodes was that land isn’t a problem—for any serious player looking to enter Bengal, the government would make sure land is available.”
The state paid CNBC-TV18 Rs50 lakh for production of the three-part series called West Bengal—Redefining Development, and the airtime, said Ghosh. The state government has put aside about Rs20 lakh to buy airtime on NDTV 24x7 and Zee Sports, he added.
This fiscal year, West Bengal is going to spend around Rs25 crore on advertising, and a substantial part of it would be spent on buying commercial time on national television networks to air promotional campaigns, according to Ghosh.
Alongside a host of executives and entrepreneurs from West Bengal, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen spoke in the CNBC-TV18-produced programming.
“Now corporate houses in India and foreign countries have begun to feel that this government is not just industry-friendly in its speeches but in action also,” said Bhattacharjee in the first episode, which dealt with manufacturers. He also spoke about the rapid growth of small and medium enterprises, or SMEs, in the state, and their employment potential.
“Our priority is manufacturing and SMEs. A mother plant like steel or a petrochemical complex provide job opportunities for very few people, but based on these mother plants, clusters (of SMEs) emerge. That is happening in plastics, that is happening in foundries,” said Bhattacharjee.
The promotional material aired on NDTV 24x7 and Zee Sports isn’t going to be as expansive as the documentaries. These channels are likely to telecast 30-second commercials, according to Ghosh. “We are buying some primetime slots on these channels,” he added.