Battleground Kerala: News channels face off over election coverage

Regional channels are expected to win big in terms of viewership.

MUMBAI: Kerala is the most literate state in the country, and as a result, news consumption among Keralites is also on the higher side. At the turn of the millenium, television news channels gained massive popularity in the state, and now, it boasts of ten exclusive news channels – Asianet News, Manorama News, Mathrubhumi News, 24 News, Kairali News, News 18, Janam TV, Reporter TV, Jai Hind, and Media One. 

News channels competing heavily in Kerala

As the state legislative assembly elections in Kerala are going to be conducted on 6 April, news channels in the state are going toe-to-toe to affirm their dominance in the industry. All news outlets in the state have been vigorously covering election news since the announcement of the polling date, and this trend will last until 2 May when the results will be declared. 

When it comes to viewership on television, Asianet, being the early bird in the industry, has clear dominance. The channel conducted a pre-poll survey in association with C-Fore. Asianet's pre-poll survey telecast was anchored by Asianet News editor-in-chief MG Radhakrishnan, and anchors Vinu V John and Sindhu Suryakumar. 

"C-Fore and Asianet have been conducting pre-poll surveys since 2009. We have conducted surveys for five elections in these 11 years. The surveys were conducted in a very professional manner, and most of our predictions in the past have turned true except having some minor changes when it comes to seat counts," said MG Radhakrishnan while anchoring the survey. 

The survey conducted by Asianet suggested that the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by CPI(M) will win 82 to 91 of the 140 assembly constituencies in Kerala in the April election; the United Democratic Front (UDF) will bag 46 to 54 seats, while the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will end up with three to seven seats. 

Apart from the survey, Asianet News' satirical program Gum also succeeded in impressing audiences during this poll season. 

Celebrated journalist Venu hosted Mathrubhumi's pre-poll survey that was carried out in association with C-Voter. Findings of the Mathrubhumi's survey also hinted at LDF dominating the 2021 elections. 

Analysis, debates, and public polls

Although Manorama News also conducted a pre-poll survey, it was Manorama's program Vottu Kavala that garnered positive responses from viewers. Vottu Kavala was basically a journey through 140 constituencies in Kerala which allowed the general public to participate in the show. Manorama News' Counter Point anchored by Shani was another segment that helped the channel to stay on top among Malayalam news channels. 

Due to their Left Democratic Front leaning, Kairali News did not succeed in garnering viewers apart from their niche audiences. However, one program on the channel that impressed everyone was Votography hosted by senior journalist John Brittas, and firebrand writer Renji Panicker. Votography analysed the political scenarios in all 140 constituencies. 

24 News conducted a mega pre-poll survey hosted by Arun, one of the most popular news anchors in Malayalam. With the implementation of advanced technology in news telecasting, 24 News is slowly emerging as one of the frontrunners among Kerala-based news channels. The channel also has a strong social media presence, and its viewers on YouTube live streaming is much ahead of Asianet News, Manorama News, and Mathrubhumi News. 

Nikesh Kumar's Walk with Candidate was one of the top election programs aired on Reporter TV. Out of the several episodes aired, it was Walk with Superstar Suresh Gopi that garnered the maximum number of viewers for the channel. During the program, the BJP candidate lashed out at Nikesh Kumar, and videos of the incident went viral on online spaces. 

Apart from regional Malayalam channels, popular national news channels in the state including India Today, Times Now, NDTV, and Republic TV will be also covering Kerala legislative assembly elections religiously. As the BARC data is not available, it is still unclear which channel will fare well in the upcoming Kerala polls coverage. However, regional language channels are expected to win big when it comes to a share of the viewership pie. 

Keralites will cast their votes on 6 April, and the state will wait until 2 May to know the results of the legislative assembly elections. During this 26-day span, news channels will most likely try to keep their momentum going by conducting post-poll opinion surveys. Apart from this, news debates during prime time are also expected to draw viewers in the coming days. 

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