Much ado about Narendra Modi

Modi is on a Bharat darshan. And the TV news channels are on a Modi darshan

If it's Saturday, it must be Narendra Modi. If it's Sunday, it must be Modi. If it's Monday, it must be Modi and even if it's Tuesday, it must be Modi. You get the general drift? Every day is Modi-day on television news. One morning, they telecast his speech live from Ahmedabad, then it's Delhi, followed by Kolkata. Boy, does the chief minister of Gujarat get around. Looks like he's on a Bharat darshan and TV news is on Modi darshan.

The media is, quite literally, the medium for his message. This suits Modi admirably: through television, his white-bearded face is getting known beyond Gujarat and his views on an infinite variety of subjects are being aired at length. And because he's addressing formal gatherings to which he has been invited, not facing aggressive journalists at interviews or press conferences, he's seldom asked hard questions. Talk about free advertisements for Narendra Modi.

It suits the media to promote Modi, and not only because he's the front-runner in BJP's prime ministerial race. At a time when advertising is becoming a serious concern for many news channels and Trai is trying to restrict advertising to 12-minutes per hour on TV, they need to keep costs down. And like every other malaise that afflicts the country, Modi seems to offer a cure: he's charismatic but contentious and therefore generates conflict and strong reactions ideal for TV. He offers high viewership at low cost for cash-strapped TV news.

Take Monday, for instance: in the morning, TV news covered his speech at the FICCI Ladies Organisation event in Delhi. As soon as the session ended, they analysed the speech Jasuben versus Kalavati, screamed headlines. The next few hours were spent telecasting excerpts from Modi's speech, reactions to his speech and features on Jasuben, the pizza queen of Ahmedabad who he'd referred to. This continued until it was time to go live to Modi, again, this time at the TV18 Think India dialogue. Back to another cycle of discussions on what he said, reactions, excerpts.

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