POV: Will interest in political news decline after the elections?

By Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | May 01, 2014
Along with a spurt in advertising spends, the elections have also resulted in a huge surge in viewership of news channels. Will the genre sustain this surge even after the elections? afaqs! talks to experts.

The most talked about, the most hyped event of the nation is mid-way to its culmination. The General Elections 2014 has hogged the limelight and contributed a big chunk to the advertising revenue of the year, leaving broadcasters smiling all the way to the bank. The two major political parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress, have reportedly shelled out Rs 400 crore and Rs 500-550 crore, respectively, in their marketing campaigns.

News channels

Suresh Iyer

Anurradha Prasad

Shailesh Amonkar

Suresh Srinivasan

R S Suriyanarayan

The television news genre has also received a significant push. As per industry sources, the viewership share of the news genre (Hindi and English combined) was around 5 per cent before the election fever set in. The latest estimated figures of the share are 6.8-7 per cent. The number is expected to rise to as much as 20-30 per cent on counting day (May 16).

According to many in the industry, if that happens, it will create history. "This year's election has been the most-talked about and has been a media war. It's all about the two strong political contenders - Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. The news genre has leveraged the event and has seen a significant growth of around 30-40 per cent."

But what will happen after the election ends? Will the viewership of the news genre drop drastically? Will the interest of people in political news decline? afaqs! finds out...

Suresh Iyer, independent media consultant

During election season, the news channels seem to get higher viewership for their regular shows. For instance, the RaGa interview with Arnab Goswami on Times Now and the episode of Aap Ki Adaalat featuring Narendra Modi on India TV garnered much more viewership than any of their earlier non-election season episodes. Viewers tend to follow leaders more closely during the election. However, these shows go back to their original core viewership once the election results are out.

In a regional market such as Tamil Nadu, many news channels owned by the political parties register high viewership during election season. The main reason can be attributed to the increased participation of the cadres of the respective political parties tuning into their party-owned news channels in large numbers. However, post elections, they too seem to taper off and lose viewership considerably.

Anurradha Prasad, chairperson and MD, B.A.G. Network

No, I don't think that the interest level of people in politics will go down anytime soon. I understand that the hype is a lot more right now as it's the time of election and people want to know more about what's happening but even post-election, the interest will sustain. There are two cases because of which people will be watching news to get themselves updated on politics. After the election, they will want a binocular view on the politics. If it's a distinct government, people would want to know what all they have done after coming to power, if they have fulfilled their promises or not. At the same time, if it is a fragile government, people will wonder what will happen now, recharging their interest in politics.

Shailesh Amonkar, CMO, Sakal Media Group

There are two aspects to this. Post elections, there are three-four states that will go for the Vidhan Sabha elections, of which Maharashtra is the largest, which may possibly garner more interest and viewership than the Lok Sabha elections because they are at a more local level. The build up for these Vidhan Sabha elections will start soon and there will be territorial coverage and hype resulting in a high level of interest of people in politics. As far as the Lok Sabha elections are concerned, they are getting over on May 16. The interest in politics and therefore the viewership of the news genre will sustain as the people will then want to know more about the government being formed, the cabinet ministers and all. So for a few weeks, the buzz around it will be there.

Suresh Srinivasan, VP, The Hindu

The electronic coverage of the current election has been unprecedented in many ways. I think what has changed in the last five years is that the youth is quite interested in the political scenario. I can see them getting actively involved in the conversation - government, corruption - they will continue to talk about them in their own micro-environment social media and all. Politics and national issues have always been in the interest of people. There will be a lot of curiosity about government formation. These were very interestingly poised polls and new projects will be announced. There will be discussions on the economic growth of the country. I don't see a very significant decline in the news viewership post election.

As for print, most publications will reduce the content of politics because it is unprecedented now. They have been devoting around six odd pages to governance, centrally related to the political issues. But even through print, the development of the government will be keenly watched. Even before elections there has been political coverage. Just a little has been added, plus we have now tagged it under headings, 'Opinions' or 'Poll debates' that make it look like a larger volume of content.

R S Suriyanarayan, associate vice-president, Initiative

The upper trends for the news channels had started with the Delhi elections in December. The momentum has picked up and it will sustain for some time and achieve peak on counting day (May 16). If there is a clear majority, then the momentum will sustain till the formation of the new government, after which the viewership will get normalised. If there is no clear majority, then the news channels will take the centre stage in covering the coalition discussions among the political parties, hence continuing to garner good viewership. Also, IPL is returning to India; it will also build up the momentum and this will affect the viewership trends of news channels.

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