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Nitish’s Publicity Drive

Bihar government spent Rs 28 crore on ads in 2010-11. Did Nitish-friendly media houses get more than their fair share?

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In an article published on September 14, 2012 on this site, I had shared the sudden upsurge in the Bihar government’s advertisement expenditure. And had mentioned how there is a growing concern that this expenditure is being insidiously used as a financial tool to buy favourable media for brand Nitish and to deny government ad revenues to sections of the media which are critical of the government. While the latter is conjecture, the former has the empirical support of statistics obtained from Bihar government’s official records as journalist Dhirendra Jha had observed in Open:

“From Rs 4.5 crore in 2005-06 (the Rashtriya Janata Dal ruled for most of this fiscal, losing power to the JD-U-BJP alliance in November 2005), Bihar’s ad expenses rose 20 per cent to Rs 5.4 crore in 2006-07, and then almost doubled to Rs 9.65 crore in 2007-08. If that wasn’t startling enough, the figure trebled to Rs 27.5 crore in 2008-09. The government was revelling in the joys of favourable newsprint, and the figure topped Rs 34.6 crore in 2009-10, before dipping a bit to Rs 28.5 crore in 2010-11…but the dip can be explained by the fact that an election code of conduct restrained ad-allotments for a few months in the runup to Assembly polls in November 2010.” (Open, April 14, 2012)

Three caveats must precede the follow-up information shared in this piece.

First, the figures and trends mentioned here are not premised on the disapproval of the government’s decision – and need – to advertise its policies and programmes. It’s quite the opposite. Far from the state-bashing bleeding heart busybodies who have turned every governmental act into a punching bag for a collective catharsis of the urban middle class, the study here recognises that any government needs the paid-for-space/air time in print, television, radio or cyber media for articulation and propagation of its programmes and policies. That is a legitimate means of political communication in all representative democracies (and would even find favour with eminent political communication theorists Almond and Powell).

Second, in times when the media is witnessing diversity with unprecedented expansion, “thought contol” and hegemonic projects of “manufacturing consent” have become increasingly difficult and even anachronistic. However, attempts at controlling a sizeable section of the media still lure the powers-that-be with the pull of scoring points in the image-building games – game open, advantage hype.

Third, although the focus here is the sudden upward swing in the Bihar government’s advertisement expenditure and the recipient media houses (skewed only in terms of the carrot-and-stick paradigm and “non-governance” objectives of publicity drive), it is not an isolated case in the country, certainly not a one-off case. It becomes more pronounced in a state like Bihar where in absence of big-time private advertisers, the government is the big cash cow to be milked for ad revenues. But that shouldn’t make one lose sight of the question – haven’t the media houses/television production houses throughout the country been subserviently wooing babudom and political masters for ad revenues and meaty assignments?

After the caveats, the follow-up. Information obtained through an RTI application provides the complete list of amounts received by different media houses as payment for carrying Bihar government advertisements, as well as to a few production houses for making the ad films in the fiscal year 2010-11 (the latest for which information is available). Following is the list:

Newspapers/Magazines/News Channels/ Production House/Other Media Companies

Amount Paid for Government Ads  (2010-11, Non-Plan Expenditure) (in Rs)

Hindustan

10,12,13,999

 Hindustan Times

 58,63,454

Dainik Jagran

5,33,68,449

Aaj

1,30,54,899

Prabhat Khabar

1,10,08,037

Rashtriya Sahara

67,41,602

Rojnama Rashtriya Sahara

1,47,313

The Times of India + The Economic Times

1,13,52,332

Pratyush Nav Vihar, Patna

30,29,027

Qaumi Tanzim

98,72,810

Farooqi Tanzim

62,35,314

Pindaar 44,11,220
Sangam 3,80,890

Inqalaab-e-Zadid

20,57,062

Pyaari Urdu

16,30,667

Mosallas

4,21,899

Pratah Kamal

39,63,519

Halat-e-Bihar

6,67,867

Sanmarg, Kolkata

6,81,003

Business Standard, Delhi

4,27,607

Indian Express, Delhi

5,95,800

Amar Ujala, Delhi

3,88,493

Pioneer, Delhi

7,12,994

                          Punjab Kesri, Delhi

 10,11,461

DNA, Mumbai

 1,12,268

New Indian Express

27,776

Jharkhand Jagran

1,42,503

The Statesman, Kolkata

1,68,723

Mail Today, Delhi

7,07,635

Nayee Baat, Bhagalpur

22,11,150

Desh Videsh, Bhagalpur

7,22,536

Dainik Bhaskar

4,06,440

Vishwamitra, Kolkata

93,395

Rajashthan Patrika, Jaipur

6,07,904

Ranchi Express, Ranchi

1,38,893

India Today, Travel Plus

7,50,000

The Week

15,20,000

Eastern Chronicle

3,43,750

Today Traveller

4,50,000

New Global India

1,42,850

Panchva Ashtambh

9,37,500

Panchjanya

80,000

Nayee Duniya

6,00,000

Aaliya Production

1,60,000

Gunjan Movies

1,26,883

                      Pranav Motion Pictures

1,77,583

Aarushi News Network

4,00,000

ETV

1,05,12,784

Mahua TV

98,77,537

IBN-7

1,46,689

Prashar Bharti – Aakashvani

16,37,289

Prashar Bharti (Doordarshan)

29,41,701

Independent News Service

3,14,286

Radio Mirchi

9,41,000

Saubhagya Mithila

3,57,372

Sahara TV

1,40,300

Saadhna News

28,83,347

TV Today Network

3,53,876

INX News

35,613

Radio Dhamaal

99,854

Insight TV News

28,333

Brand Bihar (.Com)

56,666


Total: Rs.
28,15,92,154 (Rupees Twenty Eight Crore, Fifteen Lakh, Ninety Two Thousand, One Hundred and Fifty Four) 

Doubting Thomases

1. If circulation figures of different dailies are yardsticks for advertising rates (assuming the government wants its message to reach a larger number of people), how has a paper with as limited a circulation as The Pioneer managed to get higher ad revenues than dailies with higher circulation figures like Dainik Bhaskar, Indian Express etc.? Does the fact that the paper is run by Chandan Mitra, a BJP MP, help it gain advertisements from a state government in which BJP is an alliance partner? More importantly, have some of the more obscure newspapers on the list used political connections to get a governmental dole out in the form of lakhs of rupees of advertisement revenue?

2. But, the more vexatious question for inquiry is: does the perception that the Nitish government is buying favour in influential sections of media have some element of truth in it? Is it just a coincidence that newspapers which have been instrumental in building Brand Nitish figure in the crore-plus bracket in the list: Hindustan, Dainik Jagran, Prabhat Khabar and Times of India (along with ET)? Maybe, maybe not. One argument in the government’s favour is that these papers have a high circulation in the region in order to qualify for ad revenues. However, the sudden upsurge in the advertisements still remains a puzzle.

The problem with statistics, for some its delight too, is that it stops at numbers. Inferences and interpretations are not as prosaic as numbers – they are fertile and quite imaginative too. You have the numbers here, and the ground is open. Conspiracy theorists can have a field day.

 

Anand Vardhan Contact

 

 

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  • NAVIN KUMAR

    THIS IS THE SAME UGLY POLITICAN WHO INSPITE OF THE S O S SENT REFUSED TO CUT SHORT HIS SIGHT SEEING AUSTRALIA VISIT WHILE BIHAR WAS RAVAGED BY THE HUGE FLOODS AND MEN WOMEN CHILDREN WERE DYING LIKE FLIES WHILE RECENTLY A VERY SENIOR PAKISTAN MINISTER COMES TO INDIA AND ABUSES INDIA THIS UGLY POLITICAN GOES TO PAKISTAN TO PRAISE PAKISTAN

  • http://twitter.com/karmicvoyage Shivanand Shahapur

    Great Job Anand as always :)

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