Features

TV Channels packing technological heft to election coverage

By CB Bureau

Tomorrow, the 23rd of May 2019 is watershed day in the country’s electoral and political history.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP and principal contender and Congress president Rahul Gandhi await their turn at the smithy of destiny with the results of the General Elections coming in tomorrow, the country’s news channels, without exception, have turned to technology to report the developments in real time.

Most channels employing Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality to take on the results as they come in, with expert analysis and comment to supplement ground reportage. We take a quick tour of some of the top channels and look up what could be in store for the viewer tomorrow.

INDIA TODAY TELEVISION

India Today Television has installed a news interactive studio at the India Today Mediaplex coupled with an Election Intelligence graphics dashboard showcasing insights into state-wise updates. Top journalists, such as Hindustan Editor-in-Chief Shashi Shekhar and senior journalist Alok Mehta, will be in the studio analysing the results. Viewers will be able to take in graphical representation of the results and interactive analysis through infographics through the day.

Reporters on the ground will be updating the studio with seat-wise results from all the 29 states, providing viewers real-time insights even as anchors present their analysis in the studio. Viewers can get regular updates from the mobile studio ‘Election Express 2.0’ and ‘Chunaav Studio’.

TIMES NOW

The channel will, among other top analysts, feature psephologist Jai Mrug in their studio tomorrow and will use Big Data Analytics and mathematical models alongside AI-based algorithms to analyse and predict election-day results. The channel has built election tools that will drill down election data into graphic models for a clearer understanding of the results.

Rahul Shivshankar, Editor-in-Chief, Times Now, says: “We have integrated state-of- the-art technology using Unreal Engine that delivers the fastest graphics in a virtual space with the most authentic and reliable data. Through the Unreal Engine, TIMES NOW will recreate the Lok Sabha on Counting Day, taking our viewers through the formation of the Parliament and what permutations and combinations will enable the formation of the government at the Centre.”

The channel is also reaching out physically to viewers at all possible touchpoints for an “immersive experience”. Shivshankar adds: “Times NOW through a series of initiatives will ensure that the viewers experience an immersive elections reportage. TIMES NOW with 600+ screens across Mumbai and Delhi at key locations will broadcast and share updates live on the results. The channel will have announcers at Mumbai Metro share live updates through their PA system.”

NEWS18 NETWORK

The channel has planned what it calls a “360-degree view” of the results. “Technology-backed coverage” would be the channel’s USP alongside their ‘Magic Wall’. Basant Dhawan, CEO, English & Business Cluster, Network18, says: “Technology-backed coverage will be our differentiator. On Counting Day, we will be deploying ‘Magic Wall’, an analytical tool that uses AI for election programming and result presentation.

Developed in association with CNN America, the tool is powered by the research done at the constituency level by the extensive News18 network. This will help in breaking down LIVE results based on parameters, such as demographics, industrial growth, farmer distress, millennial influence, and impact of government schemes. Each regional channel will add their editorial depth and experience to the Magic Wall.”

Magic Wall, says Dhawan, is a story-telling tool powered by cutting-edge technology handled by news anchors coordinating the elections results. The numbers from the counting centres are directed to the Magic Wall which is then expected to produce accurate data and carry out comparative analyses of the trends. “We have also deployed ELEXA, a technological platform that captures all relevant data pertaining to voting, analyses it, and applies algorithms to render virtual display of a map with factual results. On the backend, ELEXA has a unique database that interacts with state- of- the- art technology for studio camera tracking and live dynamic on-screen graphics. The result is an interactive and engaging on-screen TV viewing experience.” Like Times Now, CNN-News18 is also taking coverage physically closer to the audience with live outdoor screening in Mumbai and New Delhi.

ABP NEWS NETWORK

The ABP News Network has planned nearly 500 hours of non-stop programming. “We have curated a special in-house data lab which will help us showcase the trend analysis and ESP (early seat projection) before the final verdict is out. Additionally, we have installed LED mobile van setups across 20 cities that will screen the counting day results live and our reporters will gauge the sentiments of viewers on ground,” says Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP News Network.

Besides the active-data LED wall and 360-degree Virtual Reality initiatives, the network will also deploy “differentiated graphics, 360-degree VR action, and in-house data lab”. While reaching out to viewers through their YouTube channel as well, Pandey added, “our AI-based tool will create Live stories to engage and update our viewers on a real-time basis and an active data LED wall will be installed in our studio with colour codes and alignments for better comprehension of the results. Viewers can also browse real-time data on our digital platform with customised searches for leader-wise, state-wise, and constituency-wise categories.”

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