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Guest Article: Vivek Malhotra: News India Watched

By Vivek Malhotra , TV Today, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | January 14, 2014
A look at the news that caught viewers' attention through 2013.

Is society a reflection of its news or is it the other way around? The year 2013 was one that made the answer to this puzzle more perplexing. A quick look at the top 30 stories that dominated news in 2013 shows that at least 20 were focused on either crime or corruption in one way or another - thus, in a way shaping the way we looked at things around us.

Vivek Malhotra

Illustration

The gap between the No. 1 player and others increased in the Hindi news segment, while English saw the other erstwhile smaller players gaining ground against the leaders. The leadership in both segments remained largely absolute if one looks at the year in entirety - with Aaj Tak leading in Hindi and Times Now leading in the English pack. Digitisation and inclusion of the LC1 markets increased the leadership position of the strongest brands. Aaj Tak reached up to an average of 18.2 per cent in 2013 (C&S 15+ HSM universe), as compared to 18 per cent in 2012 (HSM universe).

Ironically, at the end of 2013, the Delhi Assembly didn't let anyone emerge in absolute leadership, the way the TRPs did.

In fact, the year started on a very heart-rending note from the same city, with gang-rape dominating the news landscape. No wonder the Delhi Assembly Elections also dominated the year end. In fact, it is estimated that of the five states going into elections, almost 50 per cent of the news duration went in covering developments in Delhi and the rest was almost equally divided between Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan, with negligible attention to Mizoram.

Also, the other pillar, Pakistan, and its firing on Indian soldiers kept itself in the headlines through the year starting in January. Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged and buried in Tihar Jail at 8:00 am on Saturday (February 9), less than a week after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy plea. The news broke early at 7:22 am on a leading news channel and built a viewership of 20 per cent more than an average day in Week 6. Week 18 saw a similar rise on Friday when Indian prisoner Sarabjeet was cremated.

Within two weeks of Week 6, on February 21, at around 19:00 IST, two blasts occurred in the city of Hyderabad. The bombs exploded in Dilsukhnagar, a crowded shopping area, within metres of one another.

Hindi News Viewership Trend Year 2013

The same week sparked the corruption issue with the helicopter deal - Indian parliamentary investigation began and there were allegations of bribery and corruption involving several senior officials and helicopter manufacturer Agusta Westland, surrounding the purchase of a new fleet of helicopters. The scandal was referred to as the Chopper Scam or Chopper Gate by the news channels. English news actually gave this more weightage than the Allahabad stampede the same week.

On February 10, which was the 27th day of the 55-day Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela, a stampede broke out at the train station in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, killing 36 people.

In the corruption stream, Coal Block kept on dragging as a main headline, though viewership returns on the story gradually declined.

Railway Board Bribery Case, IAS Durga Shakti Nagpal Suspension and Fodder Scam made fresh headlines in the corruption space, the biggest of all - IPL Season 6 players in a spot fixing scam. Sreesanth's towel left Shahrukh's shoulder surgery far behind in TRPs. The Mumbai Police had issued summons to Vindu Dara Singh too, and there was a controversy on Dhoni's stake in Rhiti Sports. By virtue of the sheer time given to the IPL scam in the news, it made it to the top three-four stories played in the news genre. In fact, if we do an estimate of news viewership, IPL:IPL Scam would have scored near about 30:70 in TRPs. It was the top story for four consecutive weeks, which is longer than even the news covering the cloudburst in Uttarakhand.

After Week 25, there was an upsurge in the overall news viewership with the cloudburst in Uttarakhand. In June, a multi-day cloudburst centred on the North Indian state of Uttarakhand caused devastating floods and landslides, making it the country's worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami. Though some parts of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh also experienced heavy rainfall, over 95 per cent of the casualties occurred in Uttarakhand.

This was the highest duration and highest viewership story of the year, and visuals of the surging water levels of the Yamuna and the submerged Shiva Murti became symbols of this unfortunate disaster. This almost doubled the viewership of the genre.

Another big piece of news in sports came when Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement. He retired from Twenty20 cricket in October and subsequently announced his retirement from all forms of cricket, retiring on November 16 after playing his 200th and final Test match against the West Indies at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium.

Another story that reveals the Indian viewer's focus on visuals was the Phaillin Cyclone warning. The Saturday of Week 41 contributed almost a quarter of that week's viewership.

As shown in the graph, the Asaram Case, Gold Hunt and Daudia Kheda, and obviously the Assembly Elections were stories that topped the Duration and Viewership Charts.

Looking forward to an ever-changing news environment and what it has to offer in 2014.

The author is VP, marketing and research, TV Today.

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