New Delhi: COVID-19 related news continues to take up maximum news space in major Indian newspapers, with more than 20 per cent of the news share in major dailies. The third issue of ICCPL-IBRF monthly report pointed out that the Health Ministry official said India would resume exports of COVID-19 vaccines only after its interests are taken care of. The retrospective tax, Taliban 2.0, Himachal landslide, and Tokyo Olympics were the other newsmakers during August 2021.

ICCPL, the leading PR & Communication consultancy firm from India and in-house developed research team under the name of IBRF comes out with the news trends report that concentrates on the newsmakers every month.

India administered more COVID-19 vaccine doses than all of G7 nations put together. The Union Health Ministry informed that over 18 crore (180 million) vaccine doses were administered in August. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also announced that more than 4.37 crore (4,37,83,160) balance and unutilized COVID vaccine doses are still available with the States and UTs to be administered. It was being reported that more than 66.89 crore (66,89,80,635) vaccine doses have been provided to States and Union Territories so far through the Government of India (free of cost channel) and the direct state procurement category.

Source – World Health Organization

The newspapers gave 20-25% space to the global pandemic that has been the most pressing issue in the current times. The space given to the news related to COVID-19 was 25% in The Times of India, 23% in Amar Ujala and Hindustan Times, 22% in Dainik Jagran and The Indian Express, 20% in The Economic Times, Business Standard, and The Hindu.

With Neeraj Chopra’s historic gold in men’s javelin throw, India’s medal tally at the Tokyo Olympics swelled to seven – the highest-ever haul for the country, beating the tally of six medals at the 2012 London Games. India won one gold, two silver and four bronze medals at the Tokyo Games in an impressive showing. The media adequately covered the exploits of the Indian Olympians. The focus on sports meant that the major dailies dedicated 15-20% of the news space for sports.

The Central Government recently introduced amendments to the Income Tax Act to end retrospective taxation. The amendment seeks to withdraw the demand for tax raised for indirect transfer of Indian assets before May 2012. The scrapping of the retrospective tax regime will instil confidence in the private investors in India’s regulatory and tax framework. On August 9, Rajya Sabha approved the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021. The decision to finally bite the bullet will help the Centre project India as investor-friendly. This is crucial given how badly the country needs foreign investment to get the economy going again, struggling as it is with low growth, low private investment and massive job losses resulting from the pandemic.

The news related to retrospective tax got 8% to 12% of the news space, with Hindustan Times giving 12% space for the Government’s bold decision. The Time of India and The Hindu gave 10% space while 8%  space was given by The Indian Express, Dainik Jagran, and Amar Ujala.

The report highlights that the health news coverage that found 23-45% space last month got only a maximum of 23% news share in the month of July 2021. The month saw developments that shared space with COVID, including petrol prices and Pegasus. The rise in petrol prices took up 9% to 13% space in various newspapers, and Pegasus was given 8% to 10% of the news space.

The return of the Taliban in Afghanistan has been a major international development; the news was concerning for India and adequately got various TV debates centred around the development apart from extensive news space being given in print media.  The space given in print media was: Hindustan Times (18%), The Hindu (17%), Dainik Jagran (16%), The Times of India and Amar Ujala (15%), and The Indian Express (10%).

The real estate sector, which is emerging as the safest investment option in the current pandemic scenario, was still among the least covered aspects in major dailies. Maximum news space to the real estate sector was in Business Standard (10%) followed by The Times of India (9%) and Economic Times (8%); other dailies gave 5% space to the sector, including Hindustan Times, The Hindu, The Indian Express,  Dainik Jagran, and Amar Ujala .

“It was a happening month in terms of news content for the media organizations. After quite a long time, we witnessed an almost even distribution of news across various topics. Though health is still dominating the news space, the downward shift in its percentage was justifiably followed by a decline in COVID cases. Neeraj Chopra and other Olympians brought in smiles, but immediately after that Indian got concerned about the developments in Afghanistan with the return of the Taliban. Overall, the Indian media seems to be back with the percentage distribution of pre-COVID times by focusing evenly on various issues.” says Kartik, the research head for IBRF Global – International Brand & Research Forum.