In run-up to LS polls on TV, 52% primetime segments against Oppn, around 1% on jobs, education

Newslaundry tracked 429 primetime segments by six anchors on six prominent TV news channels.

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Of the 429 segments, 224, or 52 percent of the total, had anti-opposition themes. Only five segments, just about one percent of the total shows, were dedicated to jobs and education. 

Meanwhile, 116 segments, or 27 percent of the total, were dedicated to praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. 

Twenty-four segments, or 5.6 percent of the total, had communal themes. And of these 24, the anchors questioned the government in six segments, or 1.4 percent of the total. 

The ‘others’ category had 54 segments, or 12.5 percent of the total, including opinion polls.

Segments under the anti-opposition category included telecasts where the anchors attacked opposition leaders on issues such as problems within the INDIA alliance, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest in the liquor scam case, and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Shakti comments. They included segments where the anchors questioned the role of the opposition without taking into account the government’s responsibility on key issues such as electoral bonds. Broadcasts accusing the opposition of Muslim appeasement were also part of this category. 

Examples of these include Times Now anchor Navika Kumar’s show on April 9 exploring the question “Appeasement guiding Cong ka Haath?”. Republic chief Arnab Goswami similarly targeted Rahul Gandhi, with hashtags such as, #RahulStrangeness, #RahulAttackingShakti, asking if “Rahul Gandhi has lost it?” or asking him to “get a life”.

In debates classified as pro-government, anchors praised Modi’s speeches, his global image, and other BJP-governed states’ policies. 

For example, when Modi inaugurated the BAPS temple in Abu Dhabi, news anchors rushed to portray him as an ambassador for Sanatan Dharma. On February 13, Times Now Navbharat anchor Sushant Sinha claimed, “Har koi kehta hai ki Narendra Modi ne yaha Ayodhya bana diya hai”. Shows where the anchors praised the poll strategies of the BJP or its leaders were also counted as pro-government.

Meanwhile, the communal issues that anchors focussed on during this period included the Gyanvapi mosque row, where they celebrated the Hindu side’s legal victory; the opposition’s comments on Sanatan Dharma, where they quoted the opposition without context; and Mukhtar Ansari’s death, where they praised UP CM Yogi Adityanath for acting against a gangster and blamed opposition parties for using him for “appeasement”. 

The ‘others’ category included episodes we could not classify under the five other categories, such as Amish Devgan’s special episode on Holi, discussions on opinion polls, the Patanjali misleading ads case hearings, ‘anti-Brahmin’ slogans in Ashoka University, and Republic TV’s victory in the TRP case.

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Let’s look at each of these anchors.

On his News18 India show Aar Paar, Amish Devgan conducted 49 debates, out of which 25 were anti-opposition, 15 were pro-government, and four were on communal issues. He praised the opposition in two debates while three were linked to the ‘others’ category.

Arnab Goswami hosted a total of 137 debates on his Republic World show The Debate. Out of this, 73 debates were anti-opposition while 32 were pro-government. 

Arnab also seemed curiously obsessed with Pakistan. We noted that 12 of his segments were linked to Pakistan, with Arnab raising questions about their election processes, army, and even casually suggesting  to  “bomb them off the face of the Earth”. Five shows were on communal issues. 

Arnab’s two shows were also placed in the ‘questions government’ category. In one of these segments, he criticised a Kolkata High Court judge joining the BJP, saying that the BJP should be questioned since the role of a judge is supposed to be above politics. He said the BJP should be questioned if it was welcoming judge Abhijit Ganguly with open arms. The ticker asked “Shouldn’t there be a cool off period?” 

In the other segment, he criticised Ashok Chavan’s shift to the BJP after the PM had declared him corrupt, saying that the decision would not help the saffron party, with tickers like “Has BJP forgotten charges against Chavan?” 

Rahul Shivshankar had 90 segments of his show Hard Facts on CNN News18. Of these, 37 were anti-opposition, 27 were pro-government, 12 focussed on Hindu-Muslim issues, and 12 were in the ‘others’ category. He questioned the BJP government on only one show, where he acknowledged that the electoral bonds decision was a blow to the party. The only time he mentioned the opposition in a non-negative context was when the Congress and Samajwadi Party reached a seat-sharing deal in UP. 

Meanwhile, Navika Kumar on her Times Now show The Newshour had a total of 51 segments, of which 33 criticised the opposition – asking questions like “Is INDIA alliance finally Ram Bharose?”. In 12 segments, she praised the government and especially Prime Minister Modi, such as in a show where she says that the Prime Minister “roars against those who slander Sanatan”.  Six of her segments were classified under the ‘others’ category. 

Sushant Sinha had 50 segments on his Times Now Navbharat show News ki Paathshala. Of these, he attacked the opposition in 29, such as this segment where he described Vijendar Singh’s exit from Congress as a “Mukka-maar jhatka”. 

In 15 of the 50 segments, he praised the Modi government or the BJP, like this one where he said, “Puri janata ek swar mein bol rahi hai ki jo kaam saalon tak nahi ho paaya, woh Modi ne kar dikhaya” while standing behind a graphic of the Ram Mandir. Two segments were around communal issues, and four linked to other topics. 

Sudhir Chaudhary, on his Aaj Tak show Black and White, had 27 segments that were anti-opposition, 15 that were pro-Modi government, two on communal issues, one on Pakistan and eight on other topics. 

When Sudhir discussed issues like employment and education, he framed them as isolated topics without taking into account the government’s role. It is noteworthy that Sudhir has done segments discussing issues such as World Happiness Index, Rose Day and AI girlfriends.

But is anyone really surprised by our findings?

In 2022, amid the Narendra Modi government’s Tiranga drive to mark 75 years of Independence, Newslaundry had analysed “nationalistic” shows to see how many of them were actually catering to issues that matter to the nation. We had found that their flag-waving was little else than a Morbius strip of dogwhistles, communal agendas and pro-government narratives on screen. See here.


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