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Is the Union Budget a media carnival?

business Updated: Feb 25, 2010 22:48 IST
Anita Sharan

Is the Indian budget more of a media circus than something that citizens are really interested in? Since the last four-five years, mainstream media, especially television news channels and newspapers, start earnest preparations days before the annual budget is read out in Parliament. Such budget excitement was earlier a characteristic mostly with newspapers, especially business papers.

Television has been the most “visible” in the budget carnival, pre-budget expert comments and panel discussions, and post-budget analyses. With the proliferation of television news channels, budget coverage is a major component, especially business channels.

Do viewers really care? Or does the media over-hype the annual budget? A look at TAM (Television Audience Measurement) figures throws up some interesting facts. Every year since 2006, budget day has seen a spike in viewership of English and Hindi news channels.

According to TAM data, budget 2009-10 presented on July 2, 2009, broadcast and analysed by English business news channels throughout the day, gave them a steep viewership spike of 156 per cent over the last four days. English general news channels saw a 13 per cent jump, Hindi business news channels a 106 per cent jump, and Hindi general news channels a one per cent jump.

Since 2006, the trend has been similar, except on February 27 when Hindi business news channels saw a 31 per cent dip. However, other news channels recorded an increase in viewership.

Of course, none of the budget days since 2006 saw the kind of jump both English and Hindi business news channels saw in 2009.

“The budget is a subject where all spectrums of the society get affected. A common man-friendly analysis of budget session by news channels helps, resulting in higher viewership of those channels, both in terms of reach and time spent,” said a TAM spokesperson.

Also interesting is the way advertisers have responded to budget day coverage by news channels since 2006. TAM AdEx, which tracks television advertising, finds that since 2006, a number of product categories have, in increasing numbers, jumped on to the budget day bandwagon. None of these categories that advertised on budget day had advertised on news channels in the four days before budget presentation that year.