Many readers here would have, at some point of time, heard Arnab Goswami thundering at 100 decibels at 9.00 pm “Please answer this question! The Nation Wants to Know”. Let us dig up some facts to see how big is this ‘nation’ that Arnab claims to represent. Guess what? On any given night, less than 4 lakh Indians watch this show! Yes, you read it right. Less than 4 lakh people!

So to be technically correct, next time Arnab should be saying “Please answer this question! 0.033% of this nation wants to know”. Because that is the proportion of the country’s population (4/12000) that Arnab claims to represent. It is a different matter that even those who are watching the show may not fully agree with his line of questioning!

The numbers appear to be ridiculously low for one of the most popular English News Channel/Show, and some explanation is in order. Here are the hard facts:

1. TV Penetration in India is still low, with about 12 crore TV sets in a country of 120 crores

2. Hindi General Entertainment (~30%) and Regional Channels (~28%) garner a lion’s share of the total TV viewership followed by Hindi movies and Kids channels covering another 20% (Source: thehoot.org a popular media-watch portal)

3. National News viewership is less than 4% of the total viewership, of which almost 90% is Hindi news, leaving less than 0.4% of total viewership for English News channels (Source: FICCI report on Media & Entertainment industry)

4. Thus, even assuming every TV set has 2 viewers (which is a bit over-estimation in case of news channels), at 0.4% of total viewership, this turns out to about 10 lakh viewers on any given night for all English news channels put-together! The reader can apply the market share data often thrown by these channels to assess the size of viewership of specific channels.

5. Even on the most “newsy” day of election results, the TV viewership of Hindi News channels are of a magnitude several times higher than the English news channels, and these two put together account for an insignificant portion of the total TV Viewership.

This insignificance of English News Channels can also be corroborated by the advertisement rates.The current advertisement rates for English News channels for a 10-second spot are in the range of just Rs. 3000 (which can go up to Rs. 20000 at prime time), while this range could be between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 4,00,000 per 10-second spot for popular Hindi General Entertainment channels!

And the official government rates published by Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) make this irrelevance of news channels even more glaring! As per DAVP, rates are less than Rs. 500 for 10-second spot in all English News channels even on prime time as compared to Rs. 40000 – 50000 for popular Hindi General Entertainment channels.

So, here are a few simple take-aways…

1. Next time when you watch Arnab Goswami (or Barkha Dutt or Sardesai or any other English news anchor), bear this simple fact in mind – that their reach is 0.033% of the population!

2. Avoid over-the-top reactions on Twitter, when you see silly utterances by news anchors.Remember, these are the ones who made fun of 31% voteshare! For all you know, this is their way of keeping themselves relevant in public discourse!

3. Bear in mind that many popular and reasonable Twitterati may be influencing more minds than these news anchors on any given day!

The tweet by Nassim Nichol Taleb today that Twitter is the new ‘Uber of discourse’ sounds almost prophetic!

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