As Tamil Nadu gets ready for elections to the state Assembly due in 2006, more media entities aligned visibly and otherwise to major political parties are cropping up.
The recent announcement by Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) to launch a newspaper and a satellite channel is not an election ploy, but is reflective of the need to propel political ambitions with the escape velocity that a media arsenal can consistently fuel, in the long term. It is commercially viable for a political entity to invest in, and establish a media brand.
The Sun network shares its name with the DMK’s party symbol, that of the rising sun. The group has progressively expanded from this visage to emerge as a player from the region poised to take on the national market. The number of FM stations that it has successfully bid for, its forthcoming IPO, its foray into print with Dinakaran and Tamil Murasu, the marketing innovations that propelled its weekly Kungumam to the leadership position on NRS, are just some examples of its commercial success in a competitive media market.
Jaya TV shares its name with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s first name. And this channel, too, is among the top four general entertainment channels in the language, and is currently engaged in a legal battle to come out with its second channel, Jaya Plus.
So when a veteran journalist dismissed the PMK’s proposal to launch a channel and a newspaper as ‘politically motivated’ and ‘commercially unviable’, it was impossible to accept without deliberations. If there ever were a brand manager to handle the PMK’s internal stakeholder portfolio (or for that matter any political party’s, in Tamil Nadu), the top three would in course of time read: Leaders, Cadres and Media – not necessarily in that order.
The messaging from one set of internal constituents to the other might just be through the third. And complete control over the key messaging, without having to rely on independently held media, is a boon. The people it reaches are the bonus, and with commercial success of the media entity, they would be an integral part of the audience for these messages too.
This is also possibly the best time for the daily publication from PMK to take roots, both commercially and politically. Reaching out to the politically aware, there is enough meat that can be packaged professionally to suit the palates of at least one segment of the audience.
According to the PMK chief, news from the PMK would not be thrust on the people through its media brands. That is a good sign for the future of the media entities that the party floats. It will enable its media brands to distance themselves from those being run purely to drive home political messages. And the advertisements in The Hindu and the Daily Thanthi inviting people to join the forthcoming channels suggest a seriousness and urgency of approach that belies contentious dismissals of the PMK’s media ambitions.
With the PMK’s foray into media, the Congress will be the only political party without a media brand to call its own in Tamil Nadu. In this era of coalition politics, ‘outside support’ to political parties from the media is passé. Ownership is in.