Hindi news channels have gone the whole hog for the Bihar election coverage, and this time they are presenting the serious with a light-hearted approach. Star News has introduced an animated character called ‘Chulbul Pandey’, inspired by the character Chulbul Pandey from the movie ‘Dabangg’, Live India has got ‘Natha’ aka Omkar Das Manikpuri to anchor the election coverage from Bihar in a show called ‘Patna Live’. Both characters aim to play the ‘common man’s voice’ role in the polls. Aaj Tak, and interestingly also News24, have come up with shows with ‘Bigg Boss’ in its title to give a reality flavour to elections.
Chulbul Pandey is a character from Bihar who represents the ‘aam aadmi’ and talks to the anchor in the studio and at the ground zero reporter in Bihar. Commenting on the character and its acceptability, Shazi Zaman, Editor, MCCS said, “It is very important to demystify political reporting and to do that, you should use all possible tools. After all, Chulbul Pandey is a cartoon character. Every newspaper has a cartoon character who speaks the common man’s language that is what Chulbul Pandey is all about.”
Natha’s inclusion via ‘Patna Live’ is on similar lines. Sudhir Chaudhary, CEO & Editor, Live India observed, “The election coverage has become monotonous. In ‘Patna Live’, I associate Omkar Das Manikpuri aka Natha’s face with the people of Bihar. It is an interesting way of voicing their language, which never reaches politicians. A journalist’s questions to a politician would be very different from that of a common man. The latter would ask about when will I get a school, when will I get roads etc. He has nothing to do with political jargon. We took Natha to Arun Jaitley’s press conference and also to meet Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan. Every election show is a politician’s show or an experts’ show but Patna Live will break the monotony of the serious and sophisticated news.”
Election Mein Do ‘Bigg Boss’
Reality show ‘Bigg Boss’ inspired two channels - Aaj Tak and News24. In a conversation with exchange4media, Q W Naqvi, News Director, TV Today Networks said, “Aaj Tak launched a property called ‘Bihar Ka Big Boss’. However, some other channels have launched programming with similar names. The objective is to create innovative content that ensures that programming is presented in an interesting and riveting manner. However we are extremely careful that in the process of making the programming interesting, we don’t trivialise it.”
Anurradha Prasad, MD, BAG Films, on the other hand, said, “The language of politicians has sobered down, and that in a sense, is lacking colour. We are offering our viewers something new, and our show ‘Bigg Boss Kaun’ is really working well with the audiences. Bihar is a very important and vibrant market and there has to be special programming for elections; it can’t be vanilla coverage. The gamut of Hindi news has expanded. It is a new way of looking at things, you are giving something new to the viewers. It is more than news, it is a show.”
Do Stars Dilute News Seriousness?
When asked whether this entertainment-inspiration weakens news seriousness, Zaman replied, “The intention is to convey the flavour of elections. You look at any of our election programs whether it is ‘Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri’ or the debate at 9 pm or you look at Shera in our newsrooms during CWG - the content is serious, it is thought provoking. There is a bit of lampooning, but that is alright since satire has a legitimate place in journalism.”
Naqvi added, “We ensure that there is balance between programming and viewer interest. For instance our property ‘Bol Bihar Bol’ is an innovative format to seek public response and gauge the mood of the market. The final outcome will be telecast after the polling for the final phase is over.”
This is a format that Aaj Tak had done during the General Elections (Bol India Bol) and the Maharashtra Elections (Bol Maharashtra Bol). The format entails an Aaj Tak reporter interacting and polling across cities on issues that are current and possibly game changers. ‘Bol Bihar Bol’ will reflect the mood across 36 towns and cities in Bihar and will have a sample of around 20,000 respondents.
Chaudhary said, “This is not an issue of eyeing TRPs and grabbing eyeballs as if was about that we would have taken a Bollywood star. The only thought was to give a new dimension to election coverage which is honest and simple.”
According to these leaders, if you are clear about your content, then you need to find the most effective ways of presentation - that could be Chulbul Pandey, Natha or Bigg Bosses. But a light-hearted approach does not hurt anyone.