KOLKATA: News channels including ABP Ananda, 24 Ghanta, ETV News Bangla, Focus TV, Kolkata TV and Tara Newz and infotainment channels like Aakash 8 have resembled a battlefield since 8am on 16 May, what with counting of votes taking place in 42 Lok Sabha constituencies.
Each channel has tried to outshine the other with live shows, panel discussions and what have you in terms of the fate of politicians in the state. Not only have they provided byte-by-byte news to viewers who are glued to their TV screens since morning but they have also kept their websites up-to-speed with the latest updates.
While the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has emerged the winner, it isn’t exactly the lion’s share of seats that the party was confident of bagging in the face of a challenge from the left front and the Congress. What’s more, BJP, that was hitherto a fringe player in the state, has sprung a surprise by forging a lead in three seats. These are among the reasons why television channels are now eagerly awaiting chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s reaction on the results.
Interestingly, while BJP wasn’t able to make the kind of inroads in the state as it desired, quite a few Bengali channels are highlighting the party’s rise in the state.
A city-based media observer said, “Even when the BJP was in power in 1999, it had only one MP from Bengal but this time, apart from the expected historical win at the centre, channels are talking about BJP making inroads in the state.”
Another media expert said, “TMC’s result isn’t entirely unexpected. The major surprise is BJP coming up in West Bengal. The opposition vote has got divided.” Talking about the way Bengali news channels covered election result day, he said, “Panellists in local Bengali channels are mostly junior and unimportant leaders of parties.”
While economist and political analyst, Swaraj Mukherjee questioned, “Kolkata is an island of its own. Trends in the rest of the country never touched this island in the past nor do they today. So TMC wins. The big number is because of big rigging, though TMC will always deny but who can deny the audio-visual documents?”
“People are quiet. They would have rejoiced if the BJP would have got a few more seats in line with the rest of the country. They cannot react so openly for fear of personal security. None the less, the victory of Sudip Bandopadhyay and Dinesh Trivedi augur well as they are liked by the people in their constituencies,” Mukherjee said, adding, “News channels are covering the news but slanted for fear of government action.”
A third expert rued, “It seems most of the channels have forgotten that this is a national election and not a Panchayat poll where they can have an overdose of local politics.”
Whereas Focus Bangla (earlier Ne Bangla) editor-in-chief Biswa Majumdar said that the channel had interviewed most of the big shots in these elections as elections were an important occasion for making a mark in the regional news space.