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Elections 2014: Live from Ground Zero

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MUMBAI: The 2014 election fever has gripped the nation and news channels in their quest to feed the hungry electorate with innovative and comprehensive news coverage, are venturing out, literally. Studio produced shows are steadily seen replacing on ground coverage ensuring that information is delivered at source. Some of these shows include Open Mike by CNN-IBN; Kaun Banega Pradhan Mantrai, Nukkad Bahas and Ghosnapatra by ABP; Campus Connect by NewsX; Janta Ka Agenda, Akhada, Pradhan Mantri Pachchisi by News Nation etc.  Well known journalists, the face of these channels including Barkha Dutt of NDTV, Sagarika Ghose of CNN-IBN, Ajay Kumar, Ramesh Bhatt from News Nation, Abhisar Sharma of ABP and Athar Khan of NewsX, have all stepped out of the four walls of the studio to reach out to the janta.

What have been the primary reasons for news channels venturing out from the comforts of the studio? IBN Network managing editor Vinay Tewari says, “Elections have been always about people. Going out on the field and interacting with the 80 crore electorate is very important for us.”

News Nation CEO and editor in chief Shailesh Kumar said, “Our endeavor is to give a feel that we are present at ground zero. We cannot call voters from far flung areas to our studios. But our studio can certainly move to the door steps of the voters.”  Echoing a similar thought about its show Campus Connect, NewsX says that the show has come up as a unique youth electorate engagement initiative that hopes to build the political power of young people in order to achieve progressive change in the country.

Producing such shows in the open involves a lot more investment, manpower and planning compared to a studio produced show. According to Castle Media director Vynsley Fernandes, producing a half-an-hour show in a studio costs around Rs 45,000 which nearly triples for an hour long show produced on ground costing roughly around Rs 1, 25,000. “But news channels feel it’s worth the effort as they get to know the real pulse of the nation,” he says.

 

News Nation has deployed about 100 crewmen including journalists, four OB vans and 30 bag packs for its different programmes while News   X ‘Campus Connect’ employs 20 odd personnel.  To transmit these shows a combination of 3G back packs and OB vans are being used. Some of these shows are broadcast live while others are pre-recorded.

Bigger states like Uttar Pradesh (UP) and the Hindi speaking belt command more weightage as they send more MPs to the parliament. News Nation says that states like UP, Bihar, Karnataka and Rajasthan are more important as BJP expects maximum swing of votes in these areas while for ABP News states in the Hindi heartland are of utmost priority and its show Ghosnapatra is limited to bigger cities only. NewsX differs and says that every state is important for them.

As the counting day draws nearer and the election mania reaches its peak, News Nation says that counting day is for results and therefore the studio will be more important to them although reporting from important constituencies will get equal importance. On the other hand, ABP News and NewsX have said that on ground reporting will see a surge on the day results will be declared. For all the effort that has gone in producing these shows and formats it is crucial that an efficient marketing plan is devised to pitch these shows to the right audience. NewsX is relying on considerable amount of word of mouth communication through the audience who take part in their shows. They are also promoting extensively through promos on the channel to build additional viewership. At the same time, each episode is uploaded on YouTube and promoted to digital subscribers.

On the other hand according to MCCS marketing manager Vikas Singh ‘aap apni rajneetik rai kahan banate hain’ is the question that the ABP News brand campaign asks its viewers. Politics is national pastime and is perhaps the only thing after cricket where everybody has a point of view. People can be seen having animated political discussions at bus stops, cafeterias, inside trains, tea stalls, at work station in office, almost everywhere. However not all discussions are backed by sound knowledge. “The campaign tries to get the viewers watch ABP News to form the correct political opinion. It leaves behind a powerful message ‘sahi rajneetik rai banana ke liye dekhiye sirf ABP News’,” says Singh.

 According to Lowe Lintas executive vice president Syed Amjad Ali the key objective of the campaign was to take the thought further through an interesting story. “The story is so simple that anyone can connect with and understand it. People resonate with this campaign far more strongly given the timing of such a large scale election that’s going on in the country,” informs Ali. The social media space too is being used extensively to market these shows. ABP News is using interactive poll banners that run on popular sites to establish the message.

As per IPSOS study-‘Kaun Banega Pradhan Mantri’ has the highest awareness amongst all election related shows across news genre. “Audiences specially the youth talk a lot of the Campus Connect show on social media,” says Singh. These dynamic formats have been a huge hit and have developed a big following among the ‘aam janta’ as it gives them an opportunity to share their views and thus makes the audience feels empowered.

NewsX plans to integrate social media to a larger and greater extent to engage with their audience.  The audience response to these new shows has been positive.

All the channels that indiantelevision.com spoke to said that this new format is here to stay even post elections, although the degree and extent to which currently these shows are produced might be low due to budget constraints.

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