The people of Karnataka have endorsed the Congress in the assembly polls held on May 5. The election turnout had been enormous and had seen immense participation from the youth. An interesting fact which has emerged in between all the hustle of elections is the sensible, fair and mature media coverage of the elections.
Editors, senior political analysts have also given thumbs up to the media coverage in the Southern state, which has been politically very sensitive post the split within the ruling BJP. Not only in terms of curtailing sensationalism but also by deploying smart techniques to ensure RoI.
John Thomas, media analyst and former Editor – Operations, Vijaya Times said, “The quality of journalism was balanced this year. There was no over the top coverage. Except 21 complaints of paid news have been reported and they should be investigated. Apart from this, there was no blemish in the coverage. Sensationalism was avoided and the reporting was mature. There was also exposure of certain cash for vote instances deployed by political parties. But yes, what would be interesting to see is whether a proper follow-up of such instances is done post the coverage.”
Shyamsunda, CEO, Suvarna News stated, “The reporting by all the channels was balanced and good. Our election predictions (Suvarna News) were almost 95 per cent accurate. In fact, this time some elections were extreme because of their very own nature and candidates. In some constituencies, it was brother vs. brother. So it was a tough ball game and media covered it in a balanced manner.”
Almost all the local and national media had adopted innovative ways to report the elections. For instance, Praja vani, a leading local newspaper published an interesting graphic on the front page. The 65-year-old Kannada daily newspaper from the Deccan Herald Group, colour-coded graphics that marked the journeys undertaken by its reporters to bring the poll to its readers
Media was not only covering elections decently but was also encouraging youth to come out and vote. Some observers also felt that there was apt information in the newspapers on the documents and requisites for voting, which made voting easy and hassle free for many youngsters.
The voter turnout this year was very good. Vasanti Hariprakash, independent journalist mentioned, “The voter turnout has never been better than this in Karnataka. I attribute the turnout basically to two reasons: One, proactive awareness spread by institutions and NGOs and second, disturbed political environment in the state. The voters were fed up with the ongoing political scenario in the state and elections were an opportunity to express their anger.”
Varadesh Hiregane, Member – Media Monitoring Committee, Udupi, and Dean – School of Communication, Manipal University said, “I believe that coverage by newspapers like Praja vani, The Hindu, Deccan, and the Express was extensive. I must say that the coverage was also balanced. There was some kind of celebration of democracy. This time there were separate media monitoring committees deployed by the election commission and they were very vigilant in ensuring a fair media coverage in the elections.”
Paid news instances
Almost 21 cases of paid news were reported during the elections.
Reju, MT, District Election Officer, Udupi, said, “In recent elections, there has been a tendency that the political parties and independent candidates buy certain properties on the channel and set their propaganda accordingly. There is a possibility that channels such as Namma TV, Smile TV, Samaya TV, etc. were involved in making ad films for political parties and independent candidates. In my view this instances qualify as paid news. There is also a possibility that the channels could have actually outsourced their production department to the parties. In certain cases where the media monitoring committee did not allow the films to be screened, they do not qualify as paid news but the ones which were broadcasted, I believe do qualify in that category. I believe that such ethical issue could be addressed by the PCI.”
It has been observed by many other analysts that certain channels might be involved in making ad films for parties like BJP and Congress and some independent candidates.
“The channels were caught,” said Varadesh, further adding, “Local channels were initially not revealing the fact that they had made films. But the channels later admitted that the film was made by them. Logo of the channel was consequently removed during airing of such films and in certain cases, the anchor of the respective channel who was not only supporting the film but was also proclaiming that certain candidate would win, was removed. Some newspapers also acted as political mouthpieces of certain parties reflecting their political affiliations.”
The overall media coverage of the assembly elections in Karnataka was fair, wholesome but marred by few paid news instances.