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TV channels storm arena in Kerala’s political battle

It is the smallest broadcast market in southern India,but thanks to its politically charged environment,Kerala is all set to see an upsurge in TV news space over the next six months.

Written by Archna Shukla | New Delhi |
May 2, 2011 3:49:38 am

It is the smallest broadcast market in southern India,but thanks to its politically charged environment,Kerala is all set to see an upsurge in TV news space over the next six months.

At least eight new players have announced their intent to launch 24×7 news channels in the state; two are expected to go on air in the next one month while others are waiting for government approval.

Kerala,at present,has four exclusive news channels and at least four more news-cum-entertainment channels. Among the two players set to enter the market in the next few weeks are Reporter TV,led by M V Nikesh Kumar,who is reportedly backed by sundry investors; and a channel by the Mathrubhumi group that publishes several leading magazines and a daily by the same name.

Those waiting in the wings include media companies such as Raj TV,Kerala Kaumudi Group and Madhyamam Group as well as some political parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim League.

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The state already has news channels owned or backed by political parties such as Indiavision,whose Chairman Dr M K Muneer is a former PWD minister and Indian Union Muslim League leader; Kairali TV’s People News (said to be backed by CPM); and Jai Hind channel,run by the state Congress unit.

Asianet News,with Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar as a majority owner,also runs a news channel,along with a general entertainment channel,in a joint venture with Rupert Murdoch’s Star Network. The other big player is the Sun TV group,that runs Surya TV. “Most of the proposed news channels aimed at a launch around the elections but couldn’t get necessary approvals in time,” said Dr Muneer.

On the face of it,the entry of so many news channels defies business logic. “It is the smallest market in terms of viewership and advertising revenue in the entire southern market,” says Frank Thomas,Business Head,Asianet News.

According to estimates from local broadcasters,analysts and media buyers,Kerala has around 4 million TV households and TV news generates around Rs 70-80 crore in advertising,the primary source of bread and butter for broadcast companies in India. The total TV advertising in Kerala was around Rs 500 crore in 2010,half of what the largest southern broadcast market Tamil Nadu (Rs 1,000 crore) generates. Andhra Pradesh,with Rs 700 crore in TV ad revenues,is the second largest market in the south.

Thomas,however,argues that it is the growing consumption culture in the state,with high per capita income,that is attracting investments.

But not all agree with this argument. “If growing consumption,and hence an expansion in the advertising market,was the lure,then investment should flow into more lucrative TV genres such as general entertainment or movies channels,” says an analyst with a leading consultancy. “Why news? News doesn’t generate the kind of eyeballs or ad bucks that other genres do.”

Dr Muneer of Indiavision says the trigger behind the launch of so many channels in the state is politics.

“Kerala is a politically charged market. A news channel is a potent platform for communicating one’s own political agenda as well as taking on opponents.” He,however,quickly adds that it is not a good practice and claims that his own channel is run objectively,pointing out that it recently ran stories against Muslim League leader P K Kunhalikutty,accused in the ice-cream parlour sex scandal.

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First published on: 02-05-2011 at 03:49:38 am

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