News channels 'Republic Bharat' and 'Republic TV' leading in the BARC ratings by a massive margin shouldn't come as a shock given their relentless and frenzied coverage of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death case. The 'Dil Bechara' actor who allegedly committed suicide on June 14, continues to be the focus even after nearly two months.
According to the latest BARC ratings, the viewers of Hindi news channel 'Republic Bharat' has increased to 24.6 crore as compared to 7.9 crore six weeks ago. Similarly, English news channel 'Republic TV' had more than 7 lakh viewers, while the second-best 'Times Now' had around 3 lakh viewers. Industry insiders believe that this jump in the ratings was only seen during the elections results or as a senior editor of an English news channel said that this kind of "continuous viewership is seen only during T20 cricket matches", reported The News Minute.
Why is the audience loving the coverage of Sushant Singh Rajput death case?
The media trial into Sushant’s death began after Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut gave an exclusive interview to Arnab Goswami. In the interview, she made stunning allegations against Karan Johar, Alia Bhatt, Mahesh Bhatt, Javed Akthar and others. She claimed that Sushant's death wasn't a suicide but a murder. Kangana spoke about the 'Bollywood mafia', blind items and sparked the 'Insider vs Outsider' debate once again.
After attacking the Bollywood folks, the media then moved on to Sushant's girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty. The 28-year-old was declared a murderer, a witch practising black magic, a gold-digger and whatnot by the news anchors and panellists. From publishing her private WhatsApp chats to camping outside her house, she has been hounded by the media. One wonders whether the "innocent until proven guilty" maxim isn't in the handbook of these media vultures.
On Sunday, when Rhea reached the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) office in Mumbai's Ballard Estate area, the media mob pounced on her. Some even shoved their microphones into her arms, a video of which has gone viral on social media. Twitterati termed it as the 'scariest video on the internet today'.
In their wild coverage and relentless pursuit for TRP, the media even forgot each and every lesson taught in journalism schools. They picked up random social media posts without any second thought and turned it into exclusive stories. They carried out "sting operations" of random people. They even linked Maharashtra Environment and Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray into this charade. Aaditya then denied any links to the case and called it "dirty politics" and "unnecessary mudslinging".
With the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) brought in to probe the case, the narrative moved on but the TRP hungry channels and editors continued. The News Minute report further quoted the senior editor who wrote to his colleagues about the half-witted coverage. He said, "Here’s the reality check: viewers are lapping it up. In fact over the last few weeks, the more the Sushant news, the more viewers seem to be consuming it."
For the audience in search of TV content amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the story became a huge talking point on social media and otherwise. They found a thriller with equal ingredients of politics, drama and speculation. Some even went on to participate in the 'thriller' by trending hashtags like "ArrestRheaNow" and "JusticeforSushant".
Meanwhile, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has turned Sushant into a poster boy for the poll-bound Bihar. Posters, banners, stickers and masks have been launched with slogans "Naa Bhoole hain naa bhoolney dengey (we have neither forgotten nor will let anyone forget).
With a drug angle being probed by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), one only hopes that the case reaches its climax soon. However, any rational person will probably guess that this ain't getting over until the Bihar elections are concluded.