Elections & IPL: Both Battlefields are Ready

22 Mar,2019

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

The elections are here! Sixty-two days from today, we will know the outcome, when the results are announced on May 23. And over these 62 days, we will see a political battle unfold across electronic, print and digital media. A battle bigger than anything we have seen before in Indian politics.

General absence of class and dignity in this political face-off is expected. The standards have dropped over the last decade, and one can expect more degeneration over the next two months. When both sides are willing to lower their standards all the time, the new low can be a really low one.

In such a scenario, it’s the media that could potentially play a pivotal role. That of being the sane voice of fact and truth, and bringing a sense of calm and balance in the political cacophony that will go on uninterrupted for more than two months. But practically speaking, there is little chance of that happening.

The media is politically polarised more than ever before, and there’s a general feeling, especially in the electronic media, that unless you are at one end of the spectrum, you will not be a popular option for your target audience. Whether that’s true or not is a matter of some deep and layered analysis. But for now, that’s the perception with which all news channels, and most newspapers and digital platforms, begin their respective ‘campaigns’, leading towards May 23, 2019.

I’ve always found the behind-the-scenes coverage of elections more interesting than the in-the-face variety. Speeches, rallies and one-liners are for everyone to see and interpret. It’s the strategy that goes into aspects like seat allocation, alliances, political messages, media plans etc. that is rarely covered in any depth. And this is where the fascinating stories often are.

Good election coverage is not about reporting speeches and debating them with a politically-polarised panel. Good election coverage is not about being the fastest on the results day either. Good election coverage is about providing an insight into how political parties approach elections and the key decisions they take during this period. More of this is what I’d wish for in the next 62 days.

On a different note, a new season of IPL starts tomorrow. Unlike the previous election years (2009 and 2014), when IPL had to be shifted outside India (to South Africa and UAE respectively) in part or whole, there has been no such talk this time. The season that kicks off tomorrow is important for its pre-World Cup timing. On the media front, we can expect digital consumption to grow further, to make IPL 2019 the most-watched digital content in India’s history by a comfortable margin.

Digital media has already warmed up to IPL 2019. Earlier this month, Netflix launched Cricket Fever: Mumbai Indians, a fascinating behind-the-scenes view of the Mumbai franchise from the 2018 season. And then, earlier this week, Hotstar launched Roar Of The Lion, a documentary series based on the journey of Chennai Super Kings in the season following the two-year ban on the franchise.

With these two series (which are worth a review here in the coming week or two), IPL has found great content extensions beyond actual live cricket. One hopes to see more such interesting content roll out in the coming years. Because cricket, for the immense popularity it enjoys in India, has been a grossly under-leveraged sport when it comes to mainstream entertainment content.

But that can wait a few weeks. For now, let the games begin. Of the political and the sporting kinds.

 

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