Never let facts come in the way of a good story

19 May 2009

Times

The general elections in India might have thrown up a clear winner, but the general elections on TV continue to throw up a fractured mandate. Nothing illustrates this better than the claims and counter-claims of the TV stations on who captured more eyeballs on counting day, May 16.

Times Now poll coverge tops viewership ratings,” reads the headline of a news story in The Times of India which owns the channel.

Times Now wins the election,” screams an advertisement in the same paper.

“According to viewership data compiled by Audience Measurement and Analytics Ltd, Times Now was ahead on counting day, May 16, with 8.05 GRPs, followed by NDTV 24×7 with 5.84 GRPs and CNN-IBN with 3.77 GRPs,” reads The Times story.

(GRPs is short for gross rating points, the currency used by advertisers to measure the popularity or reach of a TV channel. The higher it is, the larger its viewership is supposed to be.)

However, according to a report in Business Standard, among the English news channels, NDTV 24×7 had the highest GRP of 3.7 on counting day May 16, followed by Times Now (3.6) and CNN-IBN (2.7). In other words, Times Now was second, not first in the ratings.

Times Now claims it has been number one for 26 weeks since its coverage of the November 26 terror attack on Bombay and that the channel’s lead grew in the pre-poll period. But another rival, CNN-IBN, has claimed it was No.1 on at least three of the five polling days, quoting TAM (Television Audience Measurement) ratings.

For its part, NDTV 24×7 claims that a 13-city opinion poll (sample size 5,240) shows it was the most watched of the news channels during the election results coverage, with more viewership than all the other four channels put together.

“These viewership figures are in many ways more accurate than TAM ratings, which can easily be fiddled with and have increasingly become synonymous with corruption and money power,” says NDTV.

***

As if to underline the gap between English media and language media, BS says Aaj Tak clocked GRPs of 20.2, followed by Star News 17.2 and India TV 13.1. English news channels usually get an average GRP of around 1 or less on an average day.

Aaj Tak was No. 1 on polling day,” reads the headline of a story in the tabloid Mail Today, both of which are owned by the India Today group. “Aaj Tak was the most searched news source on Google India on May 16… In the 100 key words for the day, variants of Aaj Tak featured four times.”

If journalism, old or new, is about the truth, Indian television stations seem to be stumbling at the first post.

Cross-posted on churumuri

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