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Moneylife » Life » Public Interest » Satyamev Jayate: What worked and what didn’t as Season 1 ends

Satyamev Jayate: What worked and what didn’t as Season 1 ends

Sandeep Khurana | 21/07/2012 11:01 AM | 

With barely an episode left in Satyamev Jayate’s first season, the jury is out on what is the impact created by the show.  Is it a success or did it fail to make the impact it set out to make  three months ago. Here is the first independent analysis of the show based on available digital data

 

Satyamev Jayate is undoubtedly a pathbreaking effort to use the television medium to bring about heightened awareness regarding various social ills. The production team of SMJ has announced plans to reach out to audience and include feedback before they get back to bring season 2. Like the show, the aim of the article is to try and cut through a maze of clutter around the show to present some hard facts and analysis.
 

The measurement challenge

Novelty factor: Some ways in which show is peculiarly structured play a role. One, it is scheduled for Sunday morning that was all but forgotten since the Ramayana and Mahabharata in the 80s. Two, its social theme is not mainstream masala of any known kind. Three, the star value of Aamir is at play, possibly at its peak. Four, even if knowing of its social message and good intent, not all episodes are considered worthy of family viewing. For example, parents of teenagers would’t want them to watch “Intolerance to love” episode on inter-caste marriages. Likewise, many viewers would like to continue in denial than learn pervert ways of society and are known to switch off certain episodes despite being regular followers of the show. Five, the theme of each show is closely guarded till telecast. This is good as well as bad for the show and its organizers. One may be interested in a particular theme and especially on Sunday morning, adjust schedule to watch the show but over time, people with access can always decide to catch up later on web, delayed telecasts.
 

Television viewership ratings (TRP): How do you measure the impact of a show like SMJ? It is a TV show- agreed, but does it fall squarely in category of entertainment to have TRPs as the barometer? And then the simulcast over DD and starplus would mean tracking and combining two different TRPs. And then there are telecasts in regional languages. To make things complex, you would not just have to measure TRP of one show, but multiple telecasts would combine for same channel during the week.
 

 

Other media: Multimedia onslaught of the program meant there was also web to contend with, to measure the impact. With multiple official and unofficial sites/uploaders beaming every episode, and then there are uploaded part-videos of programs separately, and then to measure average view-time, it is difficult to add it all up meaningfully to infer meaningfully on impact in viewership terms leave alone social dimension of issues raised.
 

Radio talk-shows and awareness programs, twitter followership, number of (meaningful) tweets, likes on facebook, response to SMS campaigns, donation amounts, newsprint acreage consumed in reviews and web blogs and so on, each is independently and in combinations being used by media analysts to conclude varyingly. And if that is not mind-boggling there is also advertisers’ ROI, charities benefitted and political impact etc.
 

The social impact: While all above are challenging but they are still measurable, albeit with difficulty. True impact created would be in terms of awareness and turning awareness into desirable social change in behavior. Could there be factors ranging from star appeal to sheer voyeurism at play that drive up numbers unknowingly without the larger aim of social impact? Possibly, one should measure dowry deaths reduced, female foeticides prevented, organic vegetables consumed, and so on. For sure, one would end up claiming what one pleases to, as challenge of measuring the intangibles would be most difficult.
 

Gestation period: Then there is an issue of how long to wait to see impact of awareness translate into action, with both being spaced in time. Planning to increase generic medicines to its successful implementation and then measuring the impact over reasonable period- just the thought of it and we realize how difficult it would be to agree on the impact in a reasonable time.

Let the numbers speak…

Realizing the range, depth and scope of the challenge of measurement, we try to adopt multi-media multi-pronged metrics, then merging these to simplify inferences.
 

First mover advantage: The show’s novelty worked tremendously to its advantage. The magic created by first episode was never matched again (see graph 1 on donations collected ). Seemingly, given precipitous drop in collections, can be explained by two factors- the magic of surprise in the first episode, with no clue to the anticipating viewers about the theme, media options and content of the show; who then all sat glued to the TV, reflecting in high TRPs. Secondly, the message and the relatively untapped, lachrymal-glands-driven donor sentiment, reaped in the maximum. Sustenance of donor interest beyond airing week for the first episode donations, could be attributed to high TRP aided by intense news-media coverage. Since Reliance foundation matched only week 1 of amount collected in donations, some interesting inferences result. Why collections dipped sharply for episode 3(dowry system) after week of telecast?
 

 

In contrast, subsequent episodes witnessed drop in popularity on all media parameters- TRPs, video-views on web, SMS, donations etc. The nature of show by way of moralizing and making at least some people uncomfortable, the fatigue factor catching up after few episodes aided by an intense 90 minutes show, and sensitivity of some issues not conducive to family viewing contributed to the dip. The dip spread across parameters and a multimedia one-view would help see the holistic picture.


A notable exception was highest TRP recorded for episode 4 on healthcare. One possible reason for the high TRP could be universal nature of healthcare, where, unlike disabled problem, female foeticide, dowry etc, everyone is affected. TV viewership though seems to have made cross-channel dent for the episode in web videos.
 

NGO collections:

While the amount of donations was highest for Snehalaya, we would expect SMS amount received to correlate similarly too and be highest in number. However, NGO Childline (Episode 2: Child Sexual abuse) received more than 1.5 times the SMSes received by episode 1. Possibly, large amounts from few donors made a significant difference to the amount. Also, the convenience and method of SMS may have caught on by episode 2 to then dip.



Women-based themes hold sway

Youtube video total views have reduced steadily. The ones that still buck the trend slightly are themes like dowry, domestic violence and inter-caste marriages, apart from female infanticide and child sexual abuse. Audience possibly does not connect that well with issues like organic farming, alcoholism and untouchability than with gender-related issues.
 

 

Fastest fingers first: Online Search for episode videos

There is a clear pattern in accessing videos online. Searches point to most used SMJ terms as “Satyamev jayate episode” and “Satyamev Jayate video” as most used, by a factor of 10, compared to other terms. So, over time now, viewers use search engines to reach to videos and when combined with TRP drop, reducing viewership seems for real.



The episode on untouchability was hotly debated on social media. Website comments, twitter feed analysis and media articles and some key omissions in the show point to some reasons. The episode got highest numbers of comments on youtube.
 

 

Endnote

A summary snapshot indicates that the heat generated on the viewership parameters slowly dissipated and the audience turned cold. It is unfair to judge the show though on purely these. Public empathy with the causes, if not the show, should be higher given self-interest of society in issues raised, the show being mere catalyst.

 

Tenacity to persist with a cause, be it anti-corruption movement or be it social cause of SMJ, seems to be a quality unknown to the lay citizen. A limited attention span or a show that has a message but could not hold on to the recipient, there is a need to evolve. Or does the common refrain that, “ how can wholesome nutritious food be tasty too” hold true also of TV shows. Can a good theme that does not provide as much on entertainment scale but has good social cause, last?
 

There is also the all important subtle change in mindsets, that numbers do not tell, that is more important than TRPs and advertisers’ money or viewership. Getting the social issues on mainstream agenda and right upto the parliament and many state governments have surely been notable achievements. That the audience matured and the cause resonated more than the star as the show progressed, though, is evident from tweet wordmap from last episode telecast on aging parents.
 

 

(Wordmap of top 50 words with hashtags #SMJ or #AgingParents –tweets tweeted on day of Episode 11. Font size indicates frequency of usage.)

Before season 2, there is some home-work to do for team SMJ. The citizens too have their hands full-from the foetus to the elderly and so many more issues in between to make a difference……we only have scraped the tip of the iceberg. Or not even that much. We only just know more about the problems that always existed.
 

 (Note: All data taken from authentic public sources quoted. Data on donations provided courtesy Star TV. Due to transient nature of social media data based on ongoing usage, numbers may have changed since date of data collection during the week.)

 

About the author

Sandeep Khurana is Founder and Principal Consultant, QuantLeap Consulting services, based at Hyderabad. An ex-Army officer, he is well-read and experienced in govt and corporate sectors. Sandeep holds a management degree from Indian School of Business. He has interest in social media, analytics and Operations. He can be reached at sk@quantleapconsulting.com or his twitter id @IQnEQ.


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9 Comments
Rajlaxmi

Rajlaxmi 2 years ago

Dear sir,
Really I found this article very useful,It gave me an idea of how to analyse the things based on what perspective we have to observe.I want you sir to post more such articles which enrich our knowledge.
Thankyou sir

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Anirudh

Anirudh 2 years ago

Viewership depend upon current hot topics and its impact on social life. There are large silent majority watching but not reacting, who knows the fact, but can't do anything and even express his or her opinion. Anyway SMJ is a good move in news media industry where peoples issues buried under carpet for vested interest. SMJ is a small but a giant leak forward in the days to come.

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sohan modak

sohan modak 2 years ago

TRP ratings apart, SMJ has been target of scathing criticism in Outlook.
sohan modak

JUL 23, 2012
Silence Eva Jayate, by S. Anand
Aamir Khan not only deviously censored any discussion of Ambedkar and Reservation, but seemed content to use the 1920s language of high-caste reformers
S. Anand
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This Sunday morning I received a call from a friend who alerted me to the tenth episode of Aamir Khan-anchored Satyamev Jayate since the focus was on caste and untouchability. I mumbled something about his spoiling my Sunday, but tuned in nevertheless. It began with Kaushal Panwar narrating her harrowing tale for about twenty minutes: from her childhood where she was forced to join her mother in cleaning shit to her pursuit of a PhD in Sanskrit. I was glad that the audience heard her say that the discrimination she had experienced in her school in a Haryana village was no different from what she faced in the enlightened campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi—where she continues to be denied a rightful job.

Following Kaushal, we were allowed a glimpse into the life of Balwant Singh, author of the tract An Untouchable in the IAS. I noticed a shot of him looking up to a larger-than-life portrait of Dr B.R. Ambedkar in his Saharanhpur house, and realized that so far—30 minutes into the show—there had been no verbal mention of Ambedkar. Balwant Singh, among the first dalits to enter a career in civil service in post-independence India, had said in his interview that he was perhaps the first and only IAS officer ever to be demoted to the rank of tehsildar. That had been edited out. I intuitively felt the show was going to scrupulously avoid any mention of two key ideas—Reservation and Ambedkar. I was hoping to be proved wrong. I wasn’t.

How did Kaushal Panwar do her BA, MA and PhD and land a job with Delhi University? What is it that facilitates access to hitherto-excluded spaces for dalits? What is the one policy that enables dalits to stop cleaning shit and reclaim their humanity? The one weapon that helps them get an education? Get a job? Reservation. And who made this policy possible? Ambedkar. But Aamir Khan wouldn’t mention the R and A words even once for fear of alienating his middle class audience, which as a friend perceptively said, is fed “bourgeois moralism of the most pathological sort,” on a programme where “the only solution turns out to be nothing more than emotional catharsis”.

Not surprisingly, Khan would also not mention the fact that an atrocity is committed on a dalit every 18 minutes according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The penchant Khan and his research team showed for various laws and statistics in the first two episodes of SJ that I had seen—on prenatal sex determination and domestic violence—was nowhere on display here. Hence no mention of the Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989 and its dismal failure to curb violence against dalits. No discussion of a case like Khairlanji, where, in 2006, the mother and daughter, Surekha Bhotmange and Priyanka Bhotmange, had not just been raped repeatedly but tortured in ghastly ways (stripped, paraded naked, with fact-finding reports saying bullock cart pokers were thrust into their vaginas, and that Priyanka was raped even after her death). An interview with Bhaiyalal Bhotmange, the sole survivor of the Khairlanji carnage, may have not fit into the preordained script.

Then the show featured documentary filmmaker Stalin K. Padma and several clips from his three-hour film India Untouched. Again, the cherry-picked excerpts skirted any reference to A and R. In a cringe-worthy moment, Stalin even fawned on Khan and congratulated him for taking up the issue of untouchability on television 65 years after independence.

This was followed by homilies from His Holiness, Justice (retired) C.S. Dharmadhikari, who in his self-introduction, pretending to denounce labels, paraded every label of privilege that adorned his CV—including the ‘blessings’ allegedly bestowed by Adi Sankara on his ancestors. This man could equally pompously announce his Deshastha Brahmanness as his apparent rejection of it. I would have given up right then but for the fact that I had spotted Bezwada Wilson in the audience, and I was waiting to see if this leader of the Safai Karamchari Andolan—a man who had pioneered the demolition of dry latrines across India—would salvage the morning. He too was asked to narrate his early life, and he too shed tears. As did Khan with practised ease.

The next day I called Wilson and told him I was annoyed that even he did not bother to mention Ambedkar and Reservation. Wilson clarified that he indeed had. It had been edited out, as was his rant against the Supreme Court and Parliament—since both institutions had been dragging their feet on the issue of manual scavenging. Then he revealed something that shocked me. He said he had not been in the audience when Kaushal Panwar was being interviewed by Khan. I countered saying I had seen him ‘reacting’ to what Kaushal said on stage. “Even I saw myself in the audience and hence was shocked,” said Wilson. He said Kaushal had been interviewed in total isolation, in an empty studio. And yet on Sunday we saw, every once in a while, close-ups of fretful, anxious, pained and agonised faces of members of the studio audience as Kaushal was narrating her story. They even clapped on cue, like when Khan asked Kaushal her heroic father’s name. Clearly, all this had been manipulated and faked—with clever editing and splicing of shots.

I checked with Kaushal if this was true. It was. I further found that Khan and his team had shot interviews with two members of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry—its chairman Milind Kamble and key advisor Ashok Khade. They were informed just a week ahead of the 8 July telecast that their interviews wouldn’t be aired since they “did not fit in with the story”. In fact, when Chandra Bhan Prasad, mentor to DICCI and an exponent of ‘dalit capitalism’, watched the show with Kamble in Pune, they could not believe their eyes. Kamble’s interview with Khan had been shot with Dharmadhikari and Kamble seated next to each other on the studio couch; but Kamble had been weeded out. Prasad wondered if some ‘dirty trick editing’ made this possible. More likely, Dharmadhikari took a leaf out of Khan’s book and did not mind giving a ‘fresh take’ minus the unsuitable presence of Kamble. I also discovered that every participant on the show is forced to sign a ‘confidentiality agreement’ saying they will not speak about their participation—recorded many months ahead—in any social media.

In his weekly column in The Hindu, Khan began his discourse with “Gandhiji’s struggle” for “those ostracized as untouchables”. Perhaps Khan and his ghostwriters did not ever hear about what young Bhimrao had to face right in Satara at age 10. After a few paragraphs extolling Gandhi, Khan mentions “Babasaheb Ambedkar” in passing, as someone who led the drafting of the Constitution. Since the bulk of SJ’s episode chose to focus on manual scavenging, and since Dharmadhikari and Khan chose to highlight Gandhi’s imagined role in the fight against this practice—an issue largely and sadly neglected even within the dalit movement—let us turn briefly to what Gandhi said about “the most honourable occupation”.

Gandhi wrote in Harijan in 1934: “I call scavenging as one of the most honourable occupations to which mankind is called. I don’t consider it an unclean occupation by any means. That you have to handle dirt is true. But that every mother is doing and has to do. But nobody says a mother’s occupation is unclean.” In another essay entitled ‘The Ideal Bhangi’ in 1936 he wrote, “My ideal Bhangi would know the quality of night-soil and urine. He would keep a close watch on these and give a timely warning to the individual concerned. Thus he will give a timely notice of the results of his examination of the excreta. That presupposes a scientific knowledge of the requirements of his profession.” It is this stranglehold of Gandhism that has kept manual scavenging alive.

Ambedkar held a view that was the exact opposite: “Under Hinduism scavenging was not a matter of choice, it was a matter of force. What does Gandhism do? It seeks to perpetuate this system by praising scavenging as the noblest service to society! What is the use of telling the scavenger that even a Brahmin is prepared to do scavenging when it is clear that according to Hindu Shastras and Hindu notions even if a Brahmin did scavenging he would never be subject to the disabilities of one who is a born scavenger?” Ambedkar argued that in India a man is not a scavenger because of his work, but because of his birth irrespective of whether he does scavenging or not.

Khan and his team not only deviously censored any discussion of Ambedkar and Reservation, they seemed content to use the 1920s language of high-caste reformers. A friend chided me saying I shouldn’t expect Khan to be an activist. But surely my friend did not know how Khan manipulates and fools his audience—in the studio and outside—to nod and cry at moments he chooses. Wilson said, “In fact, during the shoot it was not I who actually began crying. Aamir Khan started to cry, so I was forced to cry along.” Khan obviously thinks we can flush away middle class shit with tears.

S. Anand is publisher, Navayana. A shorter, edited version of this appears in print.

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Rajkumar Singh

Rajkumar Singh 2 years ago

Team Anna is going to do the same thing, which the other politicians are doing it!

The public will not have a SAY in the election and selection of the candidates in his regime also.

We are just transferring our power from one Team to another, and continue living the life of commenting for and against each other, for self-interest only, and remain proudly disunited!

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P M Ravindran

P M Ravindran 2 years ago

Kudos to Sandeep Khurana for a pain staking job done. But SMJ is not a path breaking effort, focusing on social issues. Rajani of the 1980s was. I still love Rajani for showing the masses that they need not be underdogs. SMJ unfortunately has only appealed to the charity in people which in any case has been the prime mover with our masses. It is easy to donate Rs 100/- to charity when you have Rs 1 lakh to poof off but a totally different ball game when it is required to stand up and fight against injustice and indignity. Aamir should join Team Anna if he really wants to do some good to this country.

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