Raahil Chopra
Nov 19, 2010

Live Issue: Did the Indian media handle Obama visit responsibly?

Raahil Chopra was curious as to how consumers saw the overall coverage of the Obama visit by the Indian media

Live Issue: Did the Indian media handle Obama visit responsibly?

By the time Barack Obama and his wife left our country, we got to know a lot more about the former worker at Baskin Robbins.Thanks to the media, we get to know that the president was staying at the Taj, that he was  being served the rarest of liquor, that the list comprised of Glenfiddich scotch whisky, Louis XIII cognac and Balvenie rare, and also the prices of the bottles.

When the president of the USA visits a nation, he certainly commands media attention. But the way things turned out, it was the amount of attention the media devoted to his visit that grabbed the ‘headlines’ in the eyes of the consumers. Was the media coverage responsible? That’s the question we sought answers to.

Navneet Singh, managing director, country executive, India, The Bank of New York Mellon, thought that the media in general expected Obama to be a lot more supportive towards India, but once they realised how sensitive that topic could turn out to be, they dealt with him and his visit in a better manner. “Overall I felt that a lot of thought went into the coverage and that it was very responsibly handled by the media. Initially however the media expectations of the US President appeared to be unreasonably high. Subsequently as his visit progressed, the media accepted the delicate nature of a variety of issues from the US perspective, and in fact warmed up to the President considerably,” said Singh.

Amrit Mathur, chief operating officer, GMR Sports, was of the opinion of that the media just responded to what the viewer was interested in watching, “The coverage reflected  the viewer interest. There was serious comment on  issues, but at the same time there were interesting  nuggets and less important information that people want to know, for example; clothes worn , food menu at banquets  and the guest list which are trivial but interesting.”

On features created, Pratibha Dave, head of Gujarati Language, Navneet Publications, said, “While such features cater to general masses, the intelligentsia and industrialists were keenly looking for a deeper coverage of the message the US President brings for India, its economy and regional balances, with particular keenness on his pronouncement of Pakistan’s track of inability to contain terrorism.”

Salil Kulkarni, industrial designer at Tata Technologies, agreed with Dave’s sentiments, “While it is good to give an overall idea of the president and the experience of travelling with him, the core issues are the ones that should have taken centre stage.”

Earlier this year David Cameron, prime minister, United Kingdom had made a visit to our nation which did attract attention,  but the levels were not close to Obama’s.

Vinod Jhawar, managing director, Dhanlaxmi Fabrics, said it’s the agenda that got the attention, “David Cameron’s visit to India aimed at strengthening relationships and creating jobs in the UK. Obama’s visit on the other hand addressed a wider concern and aimed at opening the Indian market for business and commercial interests of the US. Not only this, with his short visit to India he was also seeking to draw India into a closer security and military relationship. Also, the level of interaction and certain eye catching moments of Michelle Obama dancing and the president addressing students gave the media a better and wider perspective to cover. I don’t think any other president would pull off something like that.”


Vinod S Jhawar


Textile firm head

Vinod S Jhawar, managing director, Dhanlaxmi Fabrics Ltd.

 “ The media does not get such opportunities on daily basis and hence the reporting was expanded to a level where speculation had to be overlooked. Actual reporting did take place and every key element of his visit was minutely covered, and I do not think that this coverage should be termed with speculation. Also, the level of interaction and certain eye catching moments of Michelle Obama dancing with students and the president addressing to college students gave the media a better and wider perspective to cover. So I feel his visit was definitely worthy of the coverage it received. ”


Navneet Singh


Navneet Singh, MD, Country Exec. - India, Bank of New York Mellon

Features like ‘Travelling with the president’ were excellent and seemed to be quite in line with the channels programming policies and formats adopted by superior channels. I believe the channel ( NDTV) scored over other channels by having such a feature. Such features although not essential, are a reflection of the innovative and mature approach being followed by NDTV as compared to its competitor channels.  One of the reasons was his extraordinary brilliance in delivering his speeches. No doubt he was well prepared. However he was also relaxed and confident and came across with an amazing sense of honesty.”

Pratibha Dave


Pratibha Dave, head of Gujarati language, Navneet Publications


 “As head of State of a powerful and influential nation, his policies affect several nations of the world, more particularly developing countries like ours and our neighbouring countries. So the media attention given to  him was somewhat commanded by a person of his stature. On the whole media seems to have done their role well.”


Amrit Mathur



Amrit Mathur, chief operating officer, GMR Sports

 “Print coverage during Obama’s visit was more balanced, less frantic and overall more substantial. This could be warranted to the nature of the print media. Unlike television coverage, print has only one final deadline which makes it a more  mature, less frivolous picture. Television, by definition, is ALWAYS live and hence it has to constantly invent. Features on television from news channels constitute round-the- clock  , non stop  news reporting . It is a compulsion , considering the nature of 24/7 coverage . Such features are presented to viewers to hold their interest.”


Salil KulKarni


Automobile designer

Salil Kulkarni, industrial designer, Tata Technologies

 “Keeping in mind our close ties with America - counter terrorism, trade and the recent issue with the hike in the Visa fees, coupled with the fact that Obama is the head of the most powerful country in today’s times, the depth of coverage on television for him was fair. The print coverage on the other hand while quite expansive, lacked substance at times.”

Campaign India

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