The 13-week embargo was from October 7 to January 6, 2013. On completion of the period, the raw data for the period has been released, setting off quite a clamour of claims from news channels. With statistical manipulation and clever graphwork everyone claimed leadership under every parameter.
The reasons for this clamour have to do with the behavioural psychology of viewership. A channel’s claim of being No. 1 has been seen to influence viewers into choosing it over other channels of its kind. This behaviour is also reinforced by the clubbing together of channels by category—news, entertainment, movies and so on—on service providers’ displays, which viewers scroll up and down to choose what they watch on the digital platform. Having seen an ad making a No. 1 claim, they tend to click on that particular channel from a group in that category. It does not seem to matter that all channels are making those claims: the viewer usually homes in on the basis of the claim he last remembers seeing. So every channel gains random eyeballs.
All sorts of reasons are attributed for the improved ratings. “After digitisation, the strong has become stronger,” claimed a communique from Media Content and Communication Services (MCCS), the parent company of abp News, Majha and Bangla channels. It claimed market leadership with a 30 per cent marketshare. ET Now claimed it controlled 40 per cent of the marketshare in English business news, a claim refuted by Bloomberg TV, which claimed the figures do not take into account viewers who watch its channel when they are at their workplaces! Zee News claimed its viewership had spiked after an interview with the friend of the Delhi gangrape victim.
Digitisation has helped broadcasters get a better fix on who is watching what, but it is debatable if it is helping viewers make an informed choice on what to watch. The debate is bound to get louder. Around October-end last year, the four metros had adopted digitisation. By March-end, 38 towns are expected to go for digital channels. Few had expected the effects of digitisation to show up so soon. The data (see box) shows two trends: pre-digitisation, viewership for niche channels (like news) was less; digitisation increases the choices and viewers tend to sample new channels—that is, total time spent on TV gets fragmented. But the manipulation of numbers is all too evident. In fact, the figures show that overall, news channels had seen a three per cent decline in viewership. For all English channels grouped together, viewership had declined 15 per cent; for Hindi channels, it had declined 7 per cent.
Time now to ask the opposite set of questions: Is news fatigue setting in? Is the viewer more interested in entertainment than in news channels? TAM says it has made available the raw data to all channels and they are interpreting it differently. “The data is being spliced by channels to arrive at their own conclusions,” says L.V. Krishnan, CEO of TAM. The rating agency is planning to increase to 10,000 the number of ‘peoplemeters’ installed on TV sets in use. This increases the sample size from which viewership and viewer behaviour is quantified. The agency also plans to compare viewer behaviour pre- and post-digitisation.
Of the overall decline in news channel viewership, Neeraj Sanan, chief marketing officer of MCCS, says, “The future for live news, despite the initial dip, is bright as the demand will go up with digitisation. It is a temporary setback but one that will see the news genre consolidate itself when the dust settles down.” He is taking hope from the growth in overall television viewership—which has gone up five per cent, to about a little more than two hours per day per person. Sanan takes the view that the viewer has a greater choice now: earlier, vendors could force him to make do with whatever they could offer; now, he can pick and choose. “The strong will survive,” he says. Sunil Lulla, CEO of Times Now, says, “The biggest challenge for a news channel is that it has to decide who its viewers are and how it is going to build itself as an enduring brand. Will people pay to watch news? That remains to be seen.”
What is happening is that viewer time is being fragmented. Pre-digitisation, the viewer had 80 channels to choose from on average; post-digitisation, he has 180 channels, categorised neatly as he scrolls. So the little over two hours that a viewer spends daily before TV are divided up among channels offering cookery, travel, fashion and so on. The new navigation guides and remotes coming with the set-top boxes encourage exploration. Over time, viewers will settle down and decide what they want to pay for. “Actually, viewers may end up paying more,” says Jawahar Goel, MD of Dish TV. “The biggest gainers as the cable business gets more transparent will be the broadcaster and the government. ”
Some viewers are already feeling the pinch now. Ram Narayan, 42, a handyman and gardener, bought a set-top box for RS 800 so his children could have their cartoon fix. He now finds himself awash with channels and confused. His only consolation is a serial on Lord Shiva he chanced upon. But there are advantages: pilfering a connection is no longer possible. With less pilferage, reception quality has improved. But Ram Narayan says he’ll disconnect if the distributor raises the monthly charge from Rs 100 to Rs 150, as he has been threatening to do. This is not what news channels would want to hear. Their test will be in keeping him watching and paying.
By Anuradha Raman and Pragya Singh
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
My favourite ad star is the fat 'senapati' in the Airtel ad. He seems to be worldly wise, and savvy. He expresses himself correctly, to his coveting friends.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT