It’s virtually been a one man show on TV news channels this election.
BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi cornered one-third of prime time coverage of the total TV space, which was more than his rivals, including members of the Gandhi family and leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamta Banerjee put together.
The Centre for Media Studies data on coverage of top campaigners in these general elections by six leading news channels between 8pm to 10pm (prime time) showed that Modi occupied 2,575 minutes or 33.21% of the total air time from March 1 to April 30.
In comparison, Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal got 799 minutes, half of which was in the first fortnight of March during his visit to Gujarat, where he was assaulted and called Modi’s model of development as “corporate loot”.
Kejriwal was not able to sustain that momentum and his dominance on TV channels waned to a mere 94 minutes between April 16 and April 30. His anxiety over not finding himself on TV like a few months ago was obvious when he accused the media of bias and playing into the BJP’s hands this week.
Read: Arvind Kejriwal fires fresh salvo at media for 'promoting Modi'
Unlike Kejriwal, Modi’s arch rival in this election, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s presence on TV has increased steadily since March when news hovering around him was shown for 72 minutes. It increased to 108 minutes by April-end.
But his presence on TV was eclipsed by his sister Priyanka Gandhi who took on Narendra Modi while campaigning in her mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s constituency Rae Bareli and Rahul’s constituency Amethi, where polling was held on Wednesday. Her presence on television witnessed a five-fold jump between the first and second fortnights of April.
The brother-sister duo got more coverage than Sonia Gandhi, who got 156 minutes as compared to 336 for Rahul and 171 for Priyanka. Sonia had started campaigning only in the last week of March after Congress candidates for most of the constituencies were declared.
The CMS data indicates that Modi had timed his campaign well. He started with 365 minutes in the first fortnight of March. This doubled in the next fifteen days to peak to at 1,197 minutes in the last fortnight of April. In all, he was on these channels for 2,575 minutes in the two-month campaign period.
Read: How Modi managed media focus
Presence on television can impact poll outcomes, according to a study done by Sayantani Satpathi of the University of Oklahoma and Oindrila Roy of Kent State University. Analysis of TV campaigns of different parties in the Lok Sabha elections in 2004 and 2009 show that the extent of successful mobilisation varied, depending on the crafting of the contents of the campaign.
In 2004, the NDA government’s India Shining media campaign failed and the party suffered a defeat resulting in the birth of the UPA government. Five years down the line, the UPA’s Jai Ho campaign, bought from Oscar-winning Hollywood movie Slumdog Millionaire, worked and helped the alliance come back to power.