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HomeOpinionIndian news TV has a god bigger than Modi

Indian news TV has a god bigger than Modi

TV news bends before Modi, crawls before TRP. We need institutional reform to tame the vulture.

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When Yogi Aadityanath became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, we showed nothing but Yogi for a whole month,” a top business executive of a TV news channel told me. “Do you think Modi liked it?”

Her point was that the biggest god TV news channels bow before is TRP, the weekly television ratings that drive advertising revenues. It’s a business, after all.

“After a month of showing nothing but Yogi, we found that Yogi stopped delivering the TRPs so we were back to Modi,” the executive said. When asked why TV news channels like theirs featured so little of the opposition, the reply was: “They don’t do anything that can get us TRPs.”

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ascent to power in 2014, TV news has become more of a Modi government mouthpiece. This has not happened entirely by choice. The behind-the-scenes coercive strategies driving this change was revealed in a recent report in The New York Times.

The depraved pursuit of a non-story around the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput is a good example of what happens when the two gods of Indian news TV come together: Modi and TRP.

Also read: Sushant Singh Rajput death dominated TV news airtime for past 4 weeks, industry survey finds

A joint venture

News of Sushant Singh Rajput’s unfortunate death by suicide came at the right time for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This was just the story the Modi government needed for one of its prime tricks to manage public opinion: distract and rule.

It helped that Rajput belonged to Bihar and hailed from a caste that mostly votes for the BJP and its allies there. The failure of the Modi government in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, the standoff with China in Ladakh, the economy, and the migrant labour crisis are all issues that needed distraction, in Bihar and elsewhere in India. The people of India must not be given any time to think about what’s going wrong with the government. Their enemies lie elsewhere, in Bollywood for instance. The ‘liberals’ in the Hindi film industry have to be shown their place, and what a bonus if Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray can also be targeted?

For this to play out for weeks, the story has to be stretched. To stretch the story, hollow investigations must be ordered. The case must be snatched away from an ‘unfriendly’ Maharashtra government and Mumbai Police, and central agencies must aid a media trial by leaking all kinds of personal information and speculation to the media. The lapdog media will do the rest.

But it is not simply the Modi government’s bidding that TV news is up to. The Modi government has no need to go after Rajput’s former girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, for example. That is being done purely to create a story out of nothing, for their larger distract-and-rule imperative.

The Modi-TRP alliance was a naturally winning combo, almost as soon as Modi kickstarted his prime ministerial campaign back in 2013. TV news began to show his speeches live from start to finish, something it rarely ever did before. Usually, channels would show snatches of a live speech by a political leader, and then cut to the top news points as bulletin headlines.

But Modi demanded the breaking of conventions even at the cost of editorial propriety. The BJP made the task easier by providing a direct satellite feed so the channels didn’t even have to send their outdoor broadcast units. 

Some TV anchors and journalists objected to this within their organisations. The objections were overruled when the TRPs came in, clearly showing the popularity of Modi’s speeches with the audience.

Also read: Sushant Rajput death is BJP’s chance to finish brand Aaditya Thackeray, after Rahul Gandhi

Breaking the alliance

In the Sushant Singh Rajput story, the BJP’s interests would be better served if TV could go after the Maharashtra government or the Bollywood ‘liberals,’ both of which channels are doing. But nothing is as sexy as blaming the Bengali ex-girlfriend, also a Bollywood actor.

There’s drugs and depression, personal chats and details of how Bollywood celebrities live their lives. There’s vicarious, voyeuristic pleasure in knowing what Rhea Chakraborty has ordered for lunch from a takeaway joint, and what she said when she saw Sushant Singh Rajput’s dead body. When even a channel like India Today, which at least tries not to sound deranged, has to go after the non-story, it tells you about the power of TRP.

TV news has the ability to give any story a pro-Modi spin. However, there are stories TV news may not want to cover at all, but is still forced to, because TRPs. In other words, the Modi-TRP joint alliance can be broken. The best example of this was the Rahul Gandhi hug. When the Congress leader surprised everyone by hugging Narendra Modi in Parliament, TV news had no choice but to show it, cover it. Sure, they denounced Rahul Gandhi, but ignore the story they could not. The visual was TRP material, for curiosity’s sake if nothing else.

TV news bends before Modi, but it crawls before TRP. Anyone who wants to grab the attention of TV news needs to produce TRP-worthy events. Visual, controversial, full of suspense and mystery, a clear hero/victim, and a clear villain/victimiser are some of the hallmarks that make good TRP-worthy TV.

The author is a contributing editor at ThePrint.

Also read: Seeking justice for Sushant Singh Rajput, Fadnavis likely to play ‘active role’ in Bihar polls


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  1. Pathetic the writer views totally biased without any evidence appears to be paid to write the article by vested interests as it lacks conviction and credibility

  2. When lutyen, jnu, leftisit, liberals, Door Darshan all praised Nehru Gandhi Dynasty, glorified them, it was all fine and considered natural and important. When we were in school, all we studied was about dynasty and everything good about them and how great they were. Where was this author then ? they are crying now as no one cares for them.

  3. Straight to the comments as the comments are more interesting than this so called journalists article .

  4. Look at this hypocrite presstitute, Shivam Vij, complaining how others of his tribe ply their trade. Every single rant of this presstitute screams eyeballs and click bait. And he talks of TRPs!

  5. I am very much surprised that our dear RG has not come up with a video on the story of SSR . It is humble request to author of this article and other know-all journalists on his payroll and his advisers to advise RG to bring out some video on this topic to enlighten his valued views on the hottest topic, after Corona , of 2020 .

  6. So Supreme court is also involved in pushing up TRP’s (read Sushant’s case). What will you do. You have 3 sq meals to fill up your bloated tummy and this is what you will sit and write and get paid. And The Print is shameless in advertising support journalism and seeking alms. You just go and beg on the streets of all the metropolis and what prevents you. Well I have mortgaged entire family jewels and paying monthly interest and struggling run my business and I don’t blame the government for it. Yet you guys shamelessly begging as if you are doing it for some kind of higher cause. Run your portal with your money. If you can’t go and beg on the streets and eat. It would be much more honourable and don’t run a facical show that you are doing it for something good for the people.

  7. Article is absurd and one can smell the paid media content. If you think you can demean the intellect of masses you are on wrong path..think inside and foind out why indians (even NRIs) came forward to SSRs demand for CBI.
    “apna zameer toh mach becho journalish ke liye”

  8. Before 2014, TRP used to come by showing series of scams and routine terrorist attacks , bomb blasts by leftist islamic mafia.

  9. Finally an article that speaks truth about the pro modi news channels. News channels today are nothing more than an episode of Big boss, atleast with Big boss, public knew it was scripted. After reading this article, felt like prehaps the spirit of good journalism in India is still not dead.

  10. You and your ilk are writhing like fish out of water – because you are suffering from modi derangement syndrome. I am enjoying the sight of it.

  11. Yeah.. I knew that Modi and the news channels have a symbiotic relationship.. he provides ‘stories’ so that they do not have to cover the real news that matters! But coercing businesses to stop ads.. shutting down the satellite link because they disagree with the story.. that truly shocking.. that’s censorship by underhand means.. no wonder people still rate him super high.. a true statesman would allow a level playing field and still win the people’s approval.. the ones who cannot, change the circumstances illegally in their favour.!!

  12. “TV news bends before Modi, crawls before TRP. We need institutional reform to tame the vulture.” Your news portal bends ,crawls before Antimodi gangs. Is not it true?

  13. The author needs his mental health check up. If he is having a sound mind, he will not choose such a non sense subject to write.

  14. I have yet to see a more deranged guy than this blogger. The simple fact is that the Maharashtra Government and the Police were in the cover up exercise from the minute go. The media simply latched up a spicy stuff. Even this blogger got the opportunity to write some third grade stuff and make a couple of thousands of Rupees.

  15. You guys want people to be helped out with your journalism, that’s fair. But to autoscroll the reader again and again to the link ‘help our journalism’ can be very annoying. If I couldn’t finish this article, I obviously won’t have an opinion. And I won’t pay for something I don’t know.

  16. No your media team is also biased. Yes they are. Running an anti-Modi type of campaign and trying to do do things differently than other news media trying to show the out of box theory. But thats not correct everytime when actually not required. so better do not showcase yourself to be unbiased quality journalism.

  17. Yaawn!
    Stating the obvious about your profession. Give some solutions Shivam. Otherwise, this is simply click-bait by putting Modi’s name in the headline.

  18. Says a lot more about how gullible and naive Indians are. Divide and rule worked for the British only in India – no other colony suffered partition when the British left – Singapore, Canada, Australia, USA, East Africa, Ceylon, Burma, Egypt – even Iraq are all intact. Trump tried distract and rule – today he is trailing in the polls and looks increasingly defensive. Modi is flying high in India with distract and rule aided by so called “news channels” which are in reality front for yellow journalism. Gullible Indians continue to lap up whatever these channels are dishing out unquestioningly and as a result the govt and news channel owners prosper but India suffers. Clear illustration of the saying that ‘the people get the govt they deserve.’

  19. So since when Net York Times has become the Gold Standard of Truth and Objectivity on anything concerning Modi’s India ?

  20. This is not Journalism, cheap narrative. Better come out something credible. It is nothing but you have an opinion and finding expalaination to convince it. And this same explanation you have given will apply Universally for all controversies eternally. Just change the names and the issue. Its fits every bloddy big story. Is this called journalism??? Better find some cheap ott platform to sell your story and try your luck.

  21. Yes, it is quite true that the SSR story was a god-sent gift to the high- decibel TV News channels. But that is the nature of the the industry. Viewers have a choice what channels to watch and as per TRP ratings these high-decibel channels are the most popular ones. Whether non-story or not, the SSR episode provided free entertainment to the tired minds afflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The SSR story provided an easy escape route. Furthermore, it is not that the entire stuff that was being telecast was without substance. That the Mumbai police handled this case inefficiently has now become an established fact, the most prominent lapse being no mention of the approximate time of death in the Autospy Report. Any police official worth his salt would have noticed this glaring lapse. How did it go unnoticed? Now that the Judiciary had to step in and hand over the case to CBI, more lapses would be coming forth. Interestingly, to compensate this process, a few channels seems to have been hired by the opposite camp to spread a counter-narrative. How effective would be this counter-offensive would depend on the outcome of the investigation being carried out by CBI,

  22. Yeah,
    TRP surely matters more than anything or anyone else
    Otherwise how come, on Prime Time news that too on Independence Day , that cool guy from a small town Ranchi stole the show and displaced NaMo.
    That is the magic of MSD.

  23. Boo hoo hoo. Cry me a River. Everyone only covers Modi. Nobody pays attention to me despite my daily ranting. Boo hoo hoo. Sob

  24. This article is as much a TRP driven article as the TV news channel who are focused on SSR Death case. only difference is that it’s appealing to the anti-Modi groups. Also, I think it’s unfair to complain about news channels for going after TRP driving new pieces. News channels don’t run by itself.

    We don’t know if SSR death case will ever be solved, but at least Bollywood would see some change

  25. You dimwit. You didn’t understand it is extremely well orchestrated campaign for Bihar (ashmita or whatever ) election. TRP is bound to follow when when you are dishing out a gladiatorial/ raw/ WWE kind of spectacle day after day.

  26. I would have called you a brave journalist, for swimming against the current BUT, your predilection for anti Modi narrative is the obstacle.

  27. Based on a reading of this article I hereby declare that its author is suffering from depression.

  28. What a beautiful eloquent article, more power to you. You have completely exposed Godi indian Media.

  29. Have anybody done survey how many percentage of people (like me) not recharging their DTH subscription for years now. DTH was primarily meant for NEWS. I moved to Netflix and youtube subscription.

  30. Someone needed to stand up to the vultures, and I am glad Ms Rhea Chakraborty did exactly that. Took apart the flimsy case against her with forensic skill. Brought to mind that scene from Sholay where AB extols the virtues of his friend Dharmendra to Hema Malini’s mother : Misbehaves occasionally when he is dead drunk, gambles, womanises but is otherwise free of blemish. 2. By saying that SSR smoked marijuana regularly, took the sting out of the NCB investigation. Seeking psychiatric help as far back as 2013. Father not meeting son for five years. Sister living with him in the last week of his life and not picking up any signals that something was deeply amiss. Other sister behaving inappropriately while intoxicated. RC herself one week away from the date of death, no physical or other contact. No money trail of crores of rupees of diversion / embezzlement. 3. Some channels fill one with a sense of deep revulsion at the best of times. They have surpassed themselves in this case. Satish Maneshinde is a worldly wise lawyer. Would have told his client, You tug at the heart strings a little, undo the monochromatic narrative and public perception. In court, I will take the case apart.

  31. Pity that the author has to resort to an international newspaper to back his ‘pathetic’ argument and this tosh piece. The whole of India is not tied to a single person. Be mature. Think beyond Modi!!

  32. This author is a case in point of a failed pseudo-secular negative good-for-nothing turned journalist.
    Go get a real job you moron.

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