Dr. Fakira Mohan Nahak
THE TELEVISION NEWS INDUSTRY IN ODISHA HAS GONE THROUGH A PROGRESSIVE JOURNEY IN THE PAST TWO DECADES. IN THIS SERIES DR. FAKIRA MOHAN NAHAK PRESENTS THE MEDIA HISTORY BLENDED WITH HIS CLOSE OBSERVATION ON ELECTION COVERAGE.
Before the arrival of ETV Oriya, Doordarshan was the only source of information about the election-related news that too in Hindi or English for the people of Odisha. In particular, studio discussions and detailed analysis by experts on DD National on election days used to meet the needs of the audience. The Election Express programme by ETV Oriya was a grand success. It marked the beginning of a new chapter in ETV and television in general. However, ETV was not limited to Election Express. It has also started a new trend in the preparation and presentation of various election-related programs.
During the 2004 General Election, most of the national news channels were using the available graphics software to present the election news in a viewer friendly way. ETV also started using the software like its national counterparts. But due to lack of required experience and being overly cautious, it failed to manage the graphics to simultaneously broadcast the results of the parliamentary and assembly elections. However, the first experiment that was launched in 2004 by ETV Oriya and its network to gather news about the election results was successful.
No other television channels across the country had such a robust system and network of reporters to gather information from ground zero. As a result of the experiment, the correct results were immediately available to the viewers on ETV. The team which dedicatedly looked into the election updates were termed as Result Updating Team (RUT) by the channel.
A temporary call centre was set up at the ETV News Centre in Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad just to cover the counting of votes. It was managed through state-of-the-art software. Correspondents assigned to counting booths per constituency used to give their information to the call centre by phone. Based on the input received from the counting booth, members of the ETV News Desk at the call centre entered the data into the software. Information from various call centres was automatically collected and updated on the TV screen.
Looking at the results after the due input by the updating team, it was easily understandable which candidate was leading and who all were trailing at a particular point in time. Senior members of the RUT used to review the results thoroughly before showing the final result.
The author was assigned the responsibility of preparing the database for the Parliamentary and Odisha Assembly elections. During the election, not only election-related issues were reported, but also some unique, heart touching human interest stories were reported. ETV Oriya had also started programmes based on political satire during the 2004 general election. Later, other channels in Odisha began broadcasting political satire and various incidents of daily life in a satirical way.
The success of the experiment, which began in 2004, gave ETV Oriya a unique identity in the field of election results management across the country. It was later successfully used by other channels of the network in covering other state assembly elections. By the time of the 2009 general election, it was a full proof, robust and established system. The author was one of the bulletin producers responsible for producing the counting program.
Senior reporter Apurba Mohanty and senior journalist Chandrabhanu Patnaik were coordinating and presenting the election analysis at the Bhubaneswar Studio. Another important event at the time was to start live reporting from one of the booths in Bhubaneswar in the morning during the polls, then take the DSNG van and move forward and report live from the other districts on the way. This is the first time such live reporting has been done by any Oriya television channel. This responsibility was handled efficiently and effectively by Bhabani Shankar Tripathi, the then report of ETV Oriya.
By the time of the 2014 general election, the system had become a challenge for other television networks in the country. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t keep up with ETV’s trends. ETV was able to provide complete accurate information. Rajesh Raina, a senior member of the ETV network, oversaw the entire system. Similarly, senior members of ETV Oriya like Mayadhar Pradhan, Shweta Sundar Samantaray and Lingaraj Mishra coordinated with others in the ETV network and managed the program of election coverage and counting during both the general elections of 2009 and 2014.
Being part of the network, the members of the ETV Oriya team extended their support and shared their expertise to other channels in the network for doing election coverage in the respective states. They were involved in everything from reporting to managing programmes in the respective news desk. Subhranshu Panda, Smriti Ranjan Behera, Srinivas Mohapatra, Nilambar Rath had moved to other stated and shouldered the responsibility of reporting and preparing programs for election coverage. It was all about covering parliamentary and assembly elections.
ETV Oriya had also given equal importance to state’s three-tier Panchayat and Urban Local Body elections and left no stones unturned to make sure that programmes are presented to the viewers in a very effective and efficient way. It was Panchayat election time in the state when the channel was launched. This was the first experience of the entire ETV News Desk in 2002. However, for the first time in the 2003 municipal election, ETV aired a series of exclusive interviews with newly elected mayors and municipal chairmen as part of election coverage.
It was presented by Satya Prakash Nayak, the then reporter of ETV Oriya. Later he joined ETV News Odia as the Editor of the channel. Similarly, a special segment covering the election related news in all the municipalities and municipal corporations was part of the ETV Mahanagar bulletin.
ETV Oriya was even more active in terms of news coverage and presentation in the 2007 panchayat elections and the 2008 municipal elections. Bibhuti Bishwal, Mrinalkanti Nanda, Rajashree Mohapatra, Nilambar Rath, etc. were in charge of the news presentations at the time of the launch of the channel’s broadcast, while Mausumi Mohanty, Itishree Nayak, Sangram Keshari Sadangi, Vijayalakshmi Rath, Jyoti Mishra, Rajinikanth Mishra and Shaktisai Mishra took it forward in the later phases of the channel.
By the time of the 2019 general election, ETV Oriya had stopped broadcasting, and News-18 had replaced ETV. The News-18 network has been working at the regional and national levels, and the technical changes that have taken place over the years have changed the course of preparations for the election results. The RUT- Result Updating Team has been renamed as the Result Hub. Now there are more than 20 television channels in the state, and the number of 24-hour news channels among those is no less. But ETV Oriya always remained as a trend setter.
The strategy and thought process that was followed in the premier channel was later adopted by others. With passage of time, there is advancement in technology and hence the approach in producing the election related programs. But even today the idea of having the Result Updating Team (RUT) stands unique and there is no replacement to that success formula.
(Dr. Fakira Mohan Nahak is a writer and former media professional. He is currently working as the Head of the Department of University Institute of Media Studies, Chandigarh University at Mohali, Punjab. Views are Personal)