||So different and yet so alike... Surrounded by shrouds
of secrecy, the three big guns, have worked overtime to deliver what
each believe is the best for these elections. And they have come armed
with a slew of programming initiatives. With the exception of NDTV
though, it is for the first time the other two are covering a Lok
Sabha election. But the élan with which they are functioning
makes them look like veterans in the game.
Armed with an election gene
If any organization
can really lay claim to have covered previous general elections
extensively, it would be NDTV. No wonder, the organization feels
that brand positioning for it during the elections is very simple.
'Elections = NDTV'. It's (covering elections or politics) in our
DNA, the organization choruses
||It doesn't get bigger than the great Indian
general tamasha, er, elections. 800,000 polling stations across the
country, expenditure nearing Rs 7 billion. 4 million polling staff
in action, an incredible figure of more than 600 million voters. In
fact, as many people vote in Uttar Pradesh as one-third of the United
States of America. "But being the world's largest democracy comes
with responsibility. Just like being India's most trusted news channel
comes with responsibility. We take that responsibility seriously,"
a cleverly worded press release from NDTV says.
NDTV's programming lineup for the elections have a distinct flavor
of experience. Election Watch, Chai Stop, Follow The Leader, Battle
Ground, Opinion and Exit Polls, And the winner is..., Jeet Uski Janta
Jiski, Village Voice, Party Online, Party Political, Apni Party Apni
Baat, Choti si baat, Campus India, Gustkhi Maaf (Puppets), Votenama,
Vote Yatra, Gaon Gaon Se, Party Se, Small Talk, and University
All these shows are distinctive in their approach ranging from in
studio analyses to traveling the length and breadth of the country,
stopping at highway Chai Stops, to traveling in trains with
the masses and allowing them to express their opinion, to feedback
from the student community and opinion polls in four stages with state
wise analysis and the largest sample size ever NDTV has it all covered,
across both its channels.
it is one of the criticisms, but NDTV has always turned it to its
advantage --- studio-based analysis, which may be, at times, lengthy.
And this time round also, there is no dearth of such programming.
Jeet Uski Janta Jiski (opinion polls) on NDTV India, for example,
being one such programming. It has its English equivalent too.
Because elections are all about public opinion, opinion polls
are being extensively broadcast on both the NDTV channels to gauge
the mood of the voters and predict the likely outcome of the elections.
As one NDTV employee said, sometimes you get them wrong (opinion
polls), but at NDTV, most of the time, we get them right.
It is another story that the opinion polls conducted by NDTV (in
association with AC Nielsen and The Indian Express) up till now
have been widely panned by politicians, mostly of the saffron hue.
NDTV also claims to be conducting one of the biggest polls exit
polls where more than 75,000 voters are sampled by an independent
Though the company went into a 'silent mode' just ahead of its
formal listing on the Indian bourses late last month, this is peak
season for both the NDTV channels whose ad inventories are almost
full. Advertising industry sources said that more than new brands,
it is the existing brands that have upped their spends on the two
As far as its own marketing is concerned, NDTV has been mainly
using on-air promos to tell the people about the programming lineup.
But apart from that, some strategic press, outdoor and radio space
too have been taken
with a special election page on NDTV.com
However, the ace that NDTV unveiled just before the elections
was Vinod Dua, who has been brought in as part of the team specifically
keeping in mind the general elections 2004. Moreover, his association
with NDTV goes back to 1994 when he and Dr Prannoy Roy did some
Roy and Dua ka magic chalega kya? Had it been a particular brand
of refrigerator, it would have. But this is television and like
the fickle minded Indian voters, one doesn't know for sure what
would work on TV or not. Even if that means Dua and Roy combine.
Tak & Headlines Today: Going for the jugular?
leader has launched an array of new programmes and segments to its
existing programming portfolio keeping in mind the general elections.
These initiatives have been implemented in a phased manner will
mark the run-up to the elections, as well as set the agenda for
its coverage. Not one to play it in a subtle manner, TV Today Network,
the parent company for Aaj Tak and Headlines Today, claims, Aaj
Tak plans to lead the coverage of the elections, "setting new
standards for others to follow." A bit in-your-face, maybe,
but it conforms to the whole attitude of the market leader.
The programming initiatives will provide - or attempt to do so -
comprehensive information on the scenario, and complement the channel's
coverage of the elections in the bulletins. The election-related
programming initiative has been christened Chunaav 2004: Aap
of the main properties of Aaj Tak are Vote Bank, a psephology
show that analyses the various permutations and combinations, and
projects the swings that are likely to take place; Aaj kA MP
is a report card of MPs; Election Express is a travelogue
presenting the common man's perspective; Kahani Chunav Ki, Thodi
Si Bewafai, featuring politicians, who have changed parties,
and alliances over the years; Yeh Raaste Hain Vote Ke, and
Chunavi Chaat, present the lighter side of campaigning and elections.
True to the channel's attitude, the programme names are, by and
large, based on Hindi films and the motifs used are very common
day so that the target audience of Aaj Tak has no problem in understanding
Chunavi Qawwali, a colourful and musical election show that
takes an unconventional look at elections 2004. The show aims at
capturing the essence of the great electoral battle through rhyme
and repartee, rather than the regular fare of reports, interviews
and analysis. The endeavour of Aaj Tak, in effect, is to deliver
contemporary issues pertaining to the general elections to its viewers
in a colourful form. Speaking on the election-related programming
initiatives, a TV Today statement, quoting spokesperson Rajesh Sheshadri,
said, "The viewers have always relied on Aaj Tak for comprehensive
coverage and analysis of the elections. These initiatives are in-line
with our commitment to the viewers of providing relevant and credible
Not to be left behind, Aaj Tak has also commissioned an opinion
poll on the elections, and other specific issues pertaining to it.
Headlines Today, India's first 24-hour English news channel too,
has elaborate plans. Surprisingly, it is Headlines Today that has
got the main theme of this election right by christening the programming
Battle of the Alliances, which these elections are turning
out to be.
As part of this overall electoral theme, Headlines Today has created
numerous segments, including a SWOT analysis of the outgoing Cabinet.
Speaking on various Headlines Today initiatives, Sheshadri said,
"Creating an analogy with the battlefield will capture all
the strategic aspects of electioneering in terms of flanking, defense
mechanisms and all other movements in the programming."
News: Targeting the Hindi heartland
Zee News, the
first Hindi news channel of the country, couldn't have got one thing
wrong: politics in India is never boring. And Zee News is planning
to encase this excitement through a bouquet of programmes related
to elections called Singhasan kA Final.
could be anything from Mumbai's own Govinda joining politics to
Laloo's political rhetoric. Janata Mange Hisaab, Chunav Chaupal,
which brings the people and its elected representatives face-to-face
with a host of issues on the agenda, Daurey Par Netaji are
some of the election-related programmes that Zee News has. Adding
sparkle to the whole proceedings is Daurey Par Abhinetaji, what
with so many film and TV artistes' in the electoral fray or campaigning
for their respective parties.
opinions matter. Zee News will feel the pulse through weekly opinion
polls called Kaun Kitne Paani Main. These would relate to
party performances and issues affecting the common man. There will
also be informal chats in Chunavi Gupshup at random venues,
where people would be casually asked about what elections mean to
them and about their political preferences.
Shatranj Ke Khilari is a half-hour programme featuring studio
discussions with leaders of different parties pitted against each
other, while the election trivia comes in the form of Chunavi
Chatpat. Zee News feels that the icing on the cake, however,
is Chunavi Bhatti, brought by popular comedian Jaspal Bhatti.
three-minute sarcasm packed skits - like parts of the Jaaved Jafferi
show on Aaj Tak - does tickle the humour bone of viewers.Commenting
on the show, Zee News group director, Laxmi Goel, says that the
endeavour is to bring relief to the otherwise heavy content that
marks election programming.
Zee News has marketed its election related programming, but the
channel would like to play down that aspect as Goel says, "Why
should everything boil down to commerce? We have sold airtime, but
we would have covered the elections anyway."