By Mahtab Alam
In Jharkhand, especially in the nook and corner of its capital city Ranchi, one finds banners, hoardings, cut outs by Hindi newspapers claiming to be the number one Hindi newspaper of the state. Dailies that feature in this list include Prabhat Khabar, Hindustan, Dainink Jagran, Sanmarg and Dainik Bhasker.
Prabhat Khabar, a leading newspaper with the tag line, ‘Akhbar nahi, Andolan (Revolution, not Newspaper) claims to be the No. 1 Hindi daily of the state. The hoardings and banners around the state read “Prabhat Khabar, Jharkhand ka no. 1, Bharosa 27 varshon ka (Prabhat Khabar, No. 1 of Jharkhand, Trust of 27 years)”. As the source for its claim of being the No. 1, it gives the reference of ABC July-December 09.
Here comes the question, if Pharbhat Khabar is the number one Hindi daily of the state then what about the claims made by other newspapers published in the state, say Hindustan, which also claims to be the number one with its hoarding reading, “Hindustan—Jharkhand ka No.1 akhabar (Hindustan—No.1 newspaper of Jharkhand)”. Like Prabhat Khabar, this daily too has sources to justify its claims of being the number one. And the source of the claim is AIR-IRS: Q2, 2010. Not only that, the daily to further justify its claim of being the number one Hindi daily of the state writes, “14 lakh 69 hazar pathako ki record ke sath Hindustan hai Jharkhand ka sabse lokpriya akhbar, lagatar 7wain saal (With the record readership of 14 lacs and 69 thousand, Hindustan is the most popular newspaper of Jharkhand regularly in the seven year)”.
One also wonders if in 2010, Hindustan is the number one since seven years, how can Prabhat Khabar be the number one in 2009, regardless of another readership survey that it quotes? If it is due to the survey organization, then there’s something wrong with the survey itself. But leave that point as we are often told that it is the ‘art of advertisement’, so what’s wrong if newspapers are using that!
But the most noteworthy fact is that as per Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) July – Dec’09 results published till 1st July 2010, Prabhat Khabar is not No.1 in any sense whatsoever in the State. “Claim not substantiated with ABC reports taking into the account the circulation of Jamshedpur,” reads The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) report available on its official website-www.ascionline.org., under the section of recent decisions by CCC. Though the report says that after ASCI upheld the complaint, the advertiser has discontinued publishing the advertisement from September, but again the fact is that the hoarding, which claims the same had been seen till a few days back.
In a situation like this, when it is very clear that the claims made by the daily fall short of being close to truth, the continued display of the hoarding can only go to prove that the daily is not the paper number one ,but in effect, it seems to be the ‘liar no 1’.
(Mahtab Alam is a civil rights’ activist and independent journalist currently based at Ranchi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)