KOLKATA: Most television channels in West Bengal have started election coverage about a month ago and with the state going to polls from Thursday, it will only intensify in the coming weeks.
With elections in five phases between 17 April and 12 May, both news and infotainment channels are pulling out all stops to ramp up their reportage of poll-related news and analyses.
Not only 24x7 Bengali news channels such as ABP Ananda, 24 Ghanta, ETV News Bangla, Focus TV, Kolkata TV and Tara Newz but also infotainment channels like Aakash Bangla that has three news slots, are beginning to resemble a battlefield before the onset of war.
Even networks that were hitherto fighting shy of election coverage are now taking to it like a fish to water, with crowd shots of the constituencies going to polls including Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar, among others. Television channels have gone so far as keeping their websites up-to-speed with the latest election updates.
Focus Bangla (earlier Ne Bangla) editor-in-chief Biswa Majumdar said that the channel had interviewed most of the big shots in these elections. “For elections, we have 14 special programs. Celebrities will go to places and interact with people,” he said. Focus Bangla has dedicated five to six hours every day for election coverage and earmarked anywhere between Rs 30 lakh and Rs 40 lakh for it.
For ETV News Bangla, elections are an important occasion for making a mark in the regional news space. “This year, the election is colourful and especially in Bengal with many celebrities contesting either from TMC or BJP. For Thursday, we have deployed the team and OB vans for Darjeeling. From 8am till 12 noon and then again from 4 pm to 9 pm, we will telecast live news, latest developments and talk shows to stay ahead of the others in terms of content,” said ETV News Bangla editorial advisor Prabir Ghosal. He added that the channel would be spending a huge amount on election coverage.
TARA (Television Aimed at Regional Audiences) Newz, one of the survivors of the now defunct media arm of the Saradha Group has formed three teams to cover elections in the state and will deploy one more team for election coverage in the national capital.
Tara Newz chief reporter cum input editor Dipankar Nag said that the channel had saved the money collected from advertisements and donations to buy a back pack, so that it could telecast on-ground happenings to viewers within seconds.
While elections seem to be top priority for most of the TV channels, one of the news analysts opined, “The reporters are sweating but hardly anything new is coming out. All the channels are doing the same sort of stories and even special programs are very similar with no sense of innovation.”
While another 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.”
A third expressed the view that while some news channels are carefully passing on information to viewers, others are manipulating facts to up the news quotient.