New Delhi: At best, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, who died in Mumbai Saturday, was a regional leader. But his charisma and the controversies he was involved in for nearly six decades brought his funeral procession the kind of massive live TV news coverage not witnessed for any other regional leader.
All the big guns of TV journalism were there to anchor the coverage of a funeral, which was nothing but a vicarious treat of a public spectacle for a Sunday audience.
All television channels competed with each other to give the best shot of the funeral procession of the leader who was the militant flag-bearer of Hindu nationalism and who did not hesitate to resort to mob tactics to have his will enforced. Thackeray was 86.
Since early morning, TV channels zoomed live footage of the procession that brought Mumbai to a standstill into the drawing rooms and bedrooms of tens and millions of TV viewers.
Interestingly, Times Now had seven camera crew covering the funeral process, while NDTV had at least three crew out in the field.
But his death deserved such a frenzy, said media watcher and Centre for Media Studies chairman N. Bhaskara Rao.
First and foremost, according to Rao, was the "emotional connect" that many in Mumbai have with the senior Thackeray, whose political journey began and ended with the megalopolis and for the Maharashtrian population of the country`s financial capital.
"Thackeray had a distinct personality. He did not fall into the usual categories of politicians that we see in Delhi. He was far apart from all of them and was unambiguous in his political views. He had been in politics for long and has got entangled in many controversies. All these are a good story to tell at a time when he is no more," Rao told
For this reason alone, he "deserves" the kind of coverage he got, Rao said, noting that television channels have a lot of footage from all these years of his political life that they would like to flaunt at this hour.
"It is quite tempting for any TV channel to bring out those footage and show it to their viewers. This is one compulsion that the new media has," he noted.
Another reason Rao could cite was the day of the funeral being Sunday and not much pan-India news breaks happening on account of the weekly holiday.
"Mumbai is a big market for all the television channels. Anything big in such a market is big for the channels too," he added.
And last, but not the least, the political story that the demise of Thackeray has kicked up -- the future of his Shiv Sena itself under son Uddhav and if there is a possibility of merger with the breakaway Maharashtra Navnirman Sena of cousin Raj.
"All these factors and elements add up to a good, massive coverage. The funeral procession and the political message suits the television medium," Rao added.