Sabarimala row fuels right-wing channel’s growth in Kerala

In September, the Supreme Court ruled that women of all ages be allowed to worship at the Sabarimala temple, setting aside an ancient tradition that barred women of menstruating age from entering the shrine.
BJP workers stage a protest against Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over alleged misconduct of the state police with a Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan at Sabarimala, outside the Kerala House in New Delhi(PTI File Photo)
BJP workers stage a protest against Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over alleged misconduct of the state police with a Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan at Sabarimala, outside the Kerala House in New Delhi(PTI File Photo)
Published on Dec 02, 2018 11:30 PM IST
Copy Link
Hidustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | By

The unlikely winner in the standoff between the Kerala government and protestors over Sabarimala is a right-leaning television channel called ‘Janam TV’. Within a month’s time, the channel has climbed the charts to reach the number two slot, behind only Asianet News, owned by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajya Sabha member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

According to Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) figures, the three-and-a-half-year-old channel has given a dozen-odd Malayalam news channels a run for their money with its coverage of the Sabarimala issue, coming from nowhere in terms of ratings to occupy the number two slot.

According to Week 46 data released by BARC, market leader Asianet News had 53,461 impressions followed by Janam with 30,950 and Manorama News with 29,805. According to W39 data — before Sabarimala became an issue, Janam TV’s impressions were as low as 2,950.

Impressions refer to the number of individuals in thousands of a target audience who viewed an event, averaged across minutes as per BARC, the country’s TV viewership monitoring agency. BARC doesn’t share absolute viewership numbers, so these are all averages. So, 53,461 impressions for Asianet News, 30,950 impressions for Janam, and 29,805 for Manorama News are the weekly average viewership numbers for the three channels.

In September, the Supreme Court ruled that women of all ages be allowed to worship at the hilltop shrine, setting aside an ancient tradition that barred women of menstruating age from entering the shrine. Enraged traditionalists protested against the ruling, which Kerala’s Left Democratic Front government vowed to uphold. The impasse persists.

“From day one we have been consistent with our position. We coined a slogan, ‘We are with devotees’ and it clicked. We have taken a vow that we will present news as it is without any slant or taking a position,” said Janam TV’s chief editor G K Suresh Babu. He said the channel had managed to increase its ratings due to its “objective reporting” and it had provided welcome relief to viewers fed up with Left-leaning reportage.

Most news channels in Kerala have traditionally leaned towards the Left or toed a centrist line. Market leader ‘Asianet News’ has maintained an independent stance. “In Kerala, there was a situation that if you are not a Leftist you are not fit to be a journalist. We broke the barrier, dishing out the real picture without blending ideology. BARC data shows people have accepted it well,” said Babu.

Media analyst Sunnykutty Abraham says that he doesn’t subscribe to Janam TV’s views, but feels it is here to stay.

Editors of rival channels say Janam TV had been exploiting an emotional issue to gain mileage. “But I don’t think the present churning is political in nature. For a majority of Hindus, Sabarimala is an emotional issue and since Janam TV is giving non-stop coverage, people will be glued to it.”.

Owned by Janam Multimedia Limited with 5,000 small and big shareholders, Janam TV started in 2015.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

Close Story
SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, January 26, 2022