Media folk in Chennai have been consumed by the recent development involving the arrest of a Sun TV reporter on Tuesday. This reporter was among a group accompanying former DMK minister, K Ponmudi when he visited the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation godown at Villipuram.
The private channel's Villipuram correspondent had gone to inspect the quality of rice in the godown in the wake of the ruling Government's allegation of `rotten rice' being procured by the DMK regime earlier. While the correspondent was released on bail last evening, according to sources at Sun Network, the incident has sparked off speculations about numero uno Sun TV's ability to survive in an environment which is no longer seen as 'tolerant', to say the least.
The Tamil Nadu satellite media scene could be cut right through the middle in terms of political affiliations. Popularly, Sun TV and Jaya TV are seen to have strong linkages to political parties while Raj TV and Vijay TV are seen as 'neutral' channels. Sun TV is promoted by 35-year-old Kalanithi Maran, eldest son of Union Minister Murasoli Maran and grand nephew of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. Jaya TV is promoted by T.T.V. Dinakaran, the nephew of Chief Minister J.Jayalalitha's close aide Sasikala Natarajan.
While Sun TV's initial rise has been credited to its close connection with the former ruling party, DMK, and the fact that Sumgali Cable Vision, the cable network owned by Maran's younger brother Dayanithi Maran, has a vice-like grip on the distribution network, most media watchers now admit that Sun TV's continued popularity is a function of its quality programming. "As long as it continues to dish up good programmes its fortunes are not likely to be affected in any major way," says Girish Menon, media planning director, HTA, Chennai.
In fact, Rajeev Nambiar, vice-president & COO, Raj Television Network, the close No. 2 in Tamil Nadu, feels that if anything, Sun TV is likely to emerge stronger after the recent incident. "If I know anything of the audience here, then my feeling is that Sun has actually benefited by the huge sympathy that is running in its favour right now," he said.
Close contender Jaya TV, which has strong political leanings as well, has also been working hard to ramp up its content. While skirmishes between Sun TV and Jaya TV are only too obvious in terms of what they choose to report and the events that are given mileage on their channels, they are beginning to compete on their original software in a big way. However, according to Siddharth Jadhav, media planner at O&M, Chennai, the channel ratings keep fluctuating depending on which ratings system they subscribe to - TAM or INTAM. While, there is no dispute on Sun TV's status, the discrepancy arises while choosing between Raj TV and Vijay TV. According to Jadhav, TAM ratings show Raj to be faring better than Vijay, while INTAM shows the reverse picture.
To get round the problem, media planners today do not depend on these ratings alone but give their own weightage to the programmes. For instance, Jaya TV is beginning to score hugely with its 'Kadi TV' programme, which runs along the lines of 'Mover and Shakers' on Sony TV. 'Kadi TV' is being actively included in media plans now.
Also, according media planners, Sun TV and Vijay TV seem to have a high score among the SEC-A audience while Jaya TV has managed to score with SEC C & D audiences. Hence, incidents like the one involving the Sun TV reporter are unlikely to sway audience decisions in a hurry. Or so is the popular view among industry observers in Chennai.
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