Which leaders get the most TV time, how the data came about, and how it looks over time.
There was some interest and some questions on Twitter today about my article today comparing prime-time TV coverage for top political leaders. Since the numbers in the piece give the average figures for the last two months (March and April), I’ll use this space to disaggregate the numbers a bit.
For one: methodology. All the data is from the CMS Media Lab, an independent, non-partisan research agency. I visited the lab and it was essentially a row of young people hunched over computers playing TV, with giant earphones on. So these researchers recorded prime-time TV shows from 8 pm to 10 pm on a sample of five channels – three Hindi and two English – and then logged the footage for the leader, party and issues covered. They made no comment about whether the coverage was positive or negative.
The averages for March 1 to April 30 are in my piece, and Narendra Modi clearly gets far more airtime than any other leader.
But it’s useful to look at how the numbers have changed within the last two months to get the full picture. For one, Mr. Modi got more time than his two closest competitors consistently for every 15-day period over the last two months. Secondly, the Aam Admi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal got more coverage than both Mr. Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the first half of March, and less coverage than Mr. Modi but more than Mr. Gandhi in the second half of March. Third, once the election began, Mr. Kejriwal began to get less coverage than Mr. Gandhi, even as both trailed Mr. Modi by a long way.
Since the second half of April, when the election was truly in full swing, Mr. Modi has absolutely dominated the airwaves. He got over 85% of the time spent on the three leaders in the second half of April, and this trend has nearly held for the first five days of May.
Whether this reflects bias for or against Mr. Modi is not something the numbers say, but something his supporters and opponents can feel free to project their feelings on to. One thing’s for sure: if you switch on the TV at 8 pm, you will see a lot more of one face than any other.