Amchi elections!

Maharashtra is abuzz with the state elections, which is just a day away.The national news channels have already started their election special programming along with the ‘controversial‘ Opinion Polls. One thing that strikes us in the election specials on news channels are the innovative names of the shows. From Munnabhai MLA to Chunavi Chai to Vote Cha Akhada... these are just a few initiatives that some news channels have rolled out.

Catch the elections live!

Here‘s a brief lowdown on what news channels have to offer the viewers in terms of programming for the upcoming Maharashtra State elections.

NDTV has a wide range of programming lined up to provide the viewers a complete picture. On NDTV India, Barkha Dutt will host a show called Chunavi Chai. Mahachunav and Takkar with Rajdeep Sardesai and Chaubis Ghante are the other special shows on the channel. The channel has already telecast three episodes of opinion poll Jeet Uski Janta Jiski and will roll out the exit poll on 13 October.

On NDTV 24x7, Follow the Leader, X Factors Election Special, Election special coverage on Mumbai Live and Maharashtra 3600 by Barkha Dutt will be aired. Here too, three episodes of the opinion polls titled And the winner is… have been telecast with the exit polls scheduled for 13 October. Besides these specials, all regular news bulletins will also cover the election news as it unfolds.

On the day of the counting - 16 October - NDTV India and NDTV 24x7 will have a complete day‘s coverage of the announcements of the results from the various constituencies.

Aaj Tak ‘s ace show for the elections‘ coverage is Maharashtra Ka Mahasangram. The various segments and programmes under this section are currently being aired three times a day - 2 pm, 7:30 pm and 10:30 pm. The programming comprises various interesting segments like Munnabhai MLA, Election Local, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Chunav Ala Re and Vote Cha Akhada.

Theatre and film actor Sourabh Shukla will host the segment Munnabhai MLA which provides interesting quips, thoughts and discussions from various regions. The show is aired at 10:30 pm with a repeat at 8:30 am and 3:30 pm. On the other hand, the segment Election Local, to be aired twice a day, will have the Mumbai local train as a backdrop for open debates and focus on the real concerns and issues of the common man.

Mumbai Meri Jaan features the who‘s who in Mumbai, talking about their aspirations, hopes and expectations from their MLAs. The show airs at 11:30 pm and 8:50 am. Chunav Ala Re will have Aaj Tak‘s Punya Prasoon Vajpayee travelling through the interiors of Maharashtra to unravel the grass-root problems and issues in the state. This segement is aired at 7:45 pm and 11:45 pm. Two political heavy weights will debate in Vote Cha Akhada in front of an audience. Aired on Sundays at 10 pm, this has been touted by the channel as ‘the voice of the people‘ meeting ‘the voice of politics‘.

Star News has been telecasting its special show Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri. Also shows like Maharashtra Mein Mahabharat will report the latest developments related to the Maharashtra assembly elections. The first opinion poll - Pehli Tasveer - was aired on 18 September. This was followed by a half-hour debate show – Kahiye Netaji, which started airing from 26 September.

Taaza Tasveer, on the other hand, will present the findings of the second round of opinion polls closer to the voting day. On 13 October, Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri will report on voting related developments and news followed by an Exit Poll special – Kaisi Hain Tasveer.

On 16 October, Aapka Hukum will report on the latest tally and results through out the day, followed by a post poll analysis special – Kahin Kursi Kahin Gham which will be aired on 17 October at 8 pm. Noted political analyst and commentator Mahesh Rangarajan will be Star News‘ resident expert for this entire elections coverage and the channel‘s anchors Gaurav Banerjee, Ajay Kumar, Sandeep Choudhary, Siddharth Sharma and Shazia Ilmi will be anchoring the various election specials.

The channel conducted its second opinion poll in association with The Telegraph and AC Nielsen. The survey findings were presented by Gaurav Banerjee and Rangarajan on Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri - Taaza Tasveer on 9 October.

Star News also rolled out two on-ground initiatives in order to reach out to the common man and bring to light their views, opinions and dissent. The first initiative was called Maratha Express and Kaun Banega Mukhayamantri Raths toured towns in Maharashtra.

The Maharashtra elections countdown has begun on Sahara Samay Rashtriya too with their live show Maharashtra Countdown, which will be hosted by Arup Ghosh, Shirin and Reema Parashar. This show will have an in-depth analysis on various issues pertaining to Maharashtra and its people with opinion from panelists like Jansatta editor Prabaht Joshi and Maharashtra Times editor Bharat Raut. This hourly capsule will be aired every Monday to Friday from 9.30 pm -10.30 pm till the elections are on.

The channel has also started special programmes like Straight from the State hosted by Shirin, wherein an analysis is done of each of the six regions - Vidarbh, Western Maharashtra, Konkan, Northern Maharashtra, Marathwada and Mumbai - where elections are being conducted. This programme is aired every Sunday from 9.35 pm to 10.30 pm. Another programme is Reporters Diary, where each reporter presents a complete story on a particular region. This airs every Sunday from 10.30 pm to 11 pm.

Zee News is yet to revert with its Maharashtra elections coverage details at the time of filing this report.

Marathi channels have a blast!

Marathi channels also haven‘t left any stone unturned while covering the Maharashtra elections. Opinion polls, roadshows, debates, interactive programmes - regional channels Alpha Marathi and ETV Marathi have attempted possibly everything. Now with just some hours remaining for the first vote to be cast, both the channels have unveiled their post-elections plans as well. Though DD Sahyadri has been keeping a low profile at the pre-election front, it also now proposes to join the carnival with add-ons to its existing schedule.

Alpha Marathi, which had kicked off its election shows on 12 August, has been conducting an opinion poll across the state in association with Taleem, an Ahmedabad-based organisation. The final poll result was telecast at Alpha‘s special election programme Janadesh on 9 October, with a repeat on 10 October.

On 13 October evening, Alpha Marathi will telecast its exit poll results. On the polling day the channel will telecast six news bulletins in addition to its three normal news bulletins.

On the counting day - 16 October - the channel will be doing live coverage of the proceedings from 6 am to 5 pm. Eight cities will be connected live, a studio will be set up at the vidhan bhavan and there will be minute-by-minute update of the election results. Expert panel will analyse the emerging trends. The evening news bulletin at 7:30 pm will also be dedicated to the election results and the channel will telecast another round of live discussions from 10 pm to 11 pm.

"The channel‘s coverage of Maharashtra elections will have that typical Alpha Marathi touch as well," assures Alpha Marathi senior programming head Nitin Vaidya. He says the channel will launch a hilarious character - an amusing office peon of the Alpha News office - who will be seen making his rounds in the channel throughout the day. The peon, to be played by Actor Makarand Anaspure, will appear in between discussions and will freely pass his frank comments and opinions. He will be also seen interacting with the bigwigs of the expert panel without any inhibitions.

Another innovation the channel is planning on the entertainment front is hourly spoofs on the counting day. The channel‘s popular Ghadalay Bhigadalay show team (the show was instrumental (arguably) in the resignation of former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chagan Bhujbal) will come up with satirical shows based on the emerging trends.

DD Sahyadri has been profiling the constituencies through its Vidhan Sabha Janadesh show. The channel telecasts the 15-minute programme along with its 9:30 pm daily news bulletin. For the polling day, Sahyadri has lined up some special programmes and extra news bulletins. At 6 pm the channel will telecast a review show participated by psephologists and political analysts. According to DD Sahyadri deputy director programming Shivaji Fulsundar, the show will be a kind of exit poll.

Sahyadri will kick off its counting day coverage at 8 am and the live coverage will go on till 3 pm. The channel will telecast live discussions and debates participated by politicians and experts. There will be hourly news bulletins of 10-minutes duration from 8 am till 9:30 pm. From 6 pm to 6:55 pm, Sahyadri will telecast the final analysis.

ETV Marathi hopes interactivity would provide it the cutting edge. Says business head Umesh Kulkarni, "Before planning to do something on the election front, we thought we should do something different, something which won‘t be just presentations of the facts and figures. So we conceptualised shows stressing on the interactivity theme."

In the show Randhumali - Chanda teh Bandha, popular actor Prakash Inamdar has been donning various get-ups and visiting different towns to get the view of the public on the state elections. The show Ranshinga- Pragati pustak mantryanachi anchored by veteran journalist Kumar Ketkar has local people rating the state ministers. During the interactive programme, audiences send SMS according to which ministers are rated. Anchored by popular actor Rahul Solapurkar, the show Ransangram - Dhobipachad has been presenting face off between two political rivals debating on various issues.

The channel‘s Mahaneta, Yuvaneta contest has reached its final stage now. The channel has urged the voters to choose their favourite personalities as their Mahaneta and Yuvaneta and the public has been sending in their opinions through postal letters, e-mails, SMS, fax and Integrated Voice Response (IVR). The public has been asked to pick up any important personality from any field, not just politics, as their dream leaders. The final results will be announced on 14 October at Mumbai‘s Shivaji Park.

According to Kulkarni, ETV Marathi launched the Mahaneta Yuvaneta contest targeting the educated-class and the Randhumali - Chanda teh Bandha show targeting the masses. Kulkarni claims the channel‘s experiment with the interactivity feature has been a tremendous success. He says the channel has managed to involve ministers, politicians, the common public and the educated class - all - in its election shows.

On 16 October, the channel will telecast the developments live from 8 am to 4 pm. There will be panel discussions participated by political experts and analysts. ETV Marathi will wind up its election coverage with a 7 pm to 11:30 pm analytical edition.

The final count: Advertising

With most news channels having their advertising spots booked in advance, very few new advertisers could step in to capitalise on the election fever. However, the NDTV Network has some clients sponsoring their election properties across both the channels (NDTV 24x7 and NDTV India) like HPCL, MIRC Electronics Ltd., Tata Motors, Samsung, Finolex Industries, Dominos, Maruti Udyog Ltd., Perfetti and Skoda Auto Pvt. Ltd.

On the other hand, Star News has four new advertisers - CRI Pump, Tata Tea, Union Bank of India and Chola Health Insurance - on their election special, Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri. Also, brands like Glaxo, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, Club Mahindra and‘s Way to Talk have come on board on the Star News ticker, informs Star News brand director Keertan Adhyantaya.

Political parties like Samajvadi Party, Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and Congress have flocked on Sahara Samay. Apart from the usual corporate advertisers on the channel, LG Care has recently come on board, says Sahara Samay head of sales Monica Srivastava.

Chloromint and CRI Pumps have been the major advertisers for DD Sahyadri for its election shows. According to Fulsundar, Sahyadri is expecting to rake in Rs 0.5 million for 13 October and 16 October as ad revenue. He says Sahyardi has made about Rs 4 - 5 million from advertising by political parties.

ETV Marathi has Onida, RBI, Mahindra and Mahindra, Hyundai and P&G as prominent advertisers for its election shows. According to Kulkarni, the channel has raked in ad revenue worth Rs. Five million from its election-related shows. The channel expects to accumulate another Rs 2.5 million from its counting day coverage. Kulkarni puts the ad revenue from political parties at Rs 3.5 million.

Vaidya refuses to disclose how much ad revenue Alpha Marathi has earned from its election programming.

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