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Monday, 30 June 2014 06:05

Freelance journalism unpacked

Written by

75 normal Journalism Final CoverNow, a book that tells you everything you wanted to know about freelance journalism but were afraid to ask. By Charukesi Ramadurai

Violence and harassment against women in the news media: a global picture reveals the findings of a survey of nearly 1,000 female journalists and provides the first comprehensive picture of the dangers faced by many women working in news media around the world.

"Critiques of media coverage of sexual violence in general and rape in particular tend to focus primarily on sins of commission. While some of these—such as sensationalism and prurience—are professionally indefensible, others are more complicated: the amount and type of detail to be included in news reports,

NWMI Bangalore meeting, February 9 to 11, 2007

Paper presented by Dilrukshi Handunnetti, Editor-Investigations and Political Correspondent, The Sunday Leader, Sri Lanka

Overview
Is there any reasons for the Indian media to show collective interest in covering Sri Lanka’s raging conflict? If yes, what are they?

It is now an established fact that several Tamil militant groups including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) received military training in different parts in India since the early 1970’s. This fact was never reported in the Indian media at that time. The state did not recognise this fact either. Politically, this extension of support was interpreted to be an indication of India’s unofficial assistance to a northern Tamil movement to carve out a separate homeland/state. Official war broke out in 1983 with the killing of 13 government troops and the Sinhelese responded with a terrible ethnic backlash. When violence escalated in the north and there was significant delay in sending essential supplies to the north, the Rajiv Gandhi administration air dropped dhal and rice to “feed the starving Tamil population”. This diplomatic faux pas soured Indo-Lanka relations drastically. Then came the political phase. In 1987, the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was signed between Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J R Jayawardene to move towards a political settlement.
As a consequence, power was devolved in Sri Lanka through the setting up of provincial councils.
Indian troops, known as the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) arrived in Sri Lanka to assist government forces to militarily crush the LTTE and other militant organizations operating in the north. The IPKF was soon in open conflict with the LTTE. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991 in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu by a LTTE woman suicide bomber named Thenmuli Rajaratnam. He was on a political campaign.

How does the Indian media cover the Sri Lankan conflict?
For this exercise, three journalists were tasked to survey the Indian print and television media. The ad hoc survey covered the period of 2000-2006 December. The survey led us to reach the following conclusions.

The Sri Lankan conflict was one of the most reported and less analyzed stories in India. The spill over effect has not caused Indian media to report the many angles to the conflict from the Indian perspective. Any kind on reporting on Sri Lanka could be largely classified into two categories-the promotion of the country’s image as an exotic and historical land or as the war torn neighbour.Regular reporting of incidents such as casualties, bombings, capture of land and increasing refugees to some extent gets recorded in the Tamil Nadu media.The Hindu has a Colombo correspondent and Narayan Swamy reports from New Delhi. It is obvious that one of the biggest stories as well as a human tragedy is of no significance. The general Indian reporting on the Sri Lankan conflict, despite the serious political and security implications to India appeared event- based. Different regions/states covered the conflict differently.

North — Largely event-based. More political angles covered such as pace talks, Norwegian facilitation and Premier Manmohan Singh’s regular appeals to the Colombo administration to resume talks. The stories dealt with statistics than issues. There were few reports on the humanitarian crisis. More knee jerk stories.
South — There was consistent coverage. The South also had a lot of local stories. The coverage was broad. The stories/clippings urging support for the Northern Tamil populations. Some were full of advocacy- ie; the need for a separate Tamil homeland in northern Sri Lanka. A few stories traced the historical relations between South Indian and Sri Lanka. With the outbreak of war in 2006, wave of fresh reporting ensued on the question of Sri Lankan refugees. Following the 2002 truce between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some 70,000 Sri Lankan refugees returned to Sri Lanka. At that time, a little over 200,000-made South Indian camps their home. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Karunandhi and General Secretary, MDMK, V Gopalaswamy alias Vaiko dominated the stories.
A positive phase in reporting was experienced during the same period. There was a fair balance of reports based on statistics as well as issues. More opinion pieces published. Humanitarian crisis significantly covered.
Assam — Was more radical in reporting. There was a certain level of advocacy. Largely sympathetic to the Tamil cause.The overall reporting showed lacked in depth coverage and a serious lack vibrant discussion. Event based reporting. The above despite serious political and security implications for India.

SRI LANKA — Politics of presence and the invisibility of women
Women representation at the dialogue level. No women have been included in the island’s peace process in a real way. Cosmetic representation was given to women when Housing and Public Amenities Minister and a Muslim political party leader, Ferial Ashraff was included in the government delegation during the only round of peace talks held since the ascendancy of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The LTTE also included a woman during the same round of talks.

Women as experts — There are no women experts generally commenting on the peace process, conflict or the political aspects of the same. There isn’t a strong enough voice raised by the elected women legislators as well. Some women activists focus on human rights, the humanitarian crisis and psychological needs of victims of war. Few women have done academic work — Dr. Rajini Thiranagama who was critical both of the government and the LTTE and wrote a book titled the “Broken Palmyra” was killed in Jaffna by the LTTE
Government forces — Employs women but none of them have ended as the commander in chief or as chief of staff, the two top ranks Only two years ago, SLAF began recruiting women as cadet pilots Women perform non-combatant duties in all three forces. No woman has reached beyond a certain rank in all three armed forces. The only woman who reached a rank of recognition was Premila Diwakara, a Superintendent of Police (SP)

LTTE cadres — LTTE has a separate women’s brigade named “Malathi”. The Liberation Tigers recruit child soldiers, both male and female children. Women were originally used for LTTE propaganda work. Later women began performing a special duty within the LTTE frame work — as human bombs

Women journalists less visible in conflict coverage
Just a handful have entered this beat when they do, they cover the conflict from Colombo by analyzing reports or dealing with the political aspects. There is still competition from male colleagues to secure this beat women reporters are less likely to be given a beat that is considered “extremely male”
Women perceived by most editors to be lacking in depth knowledge about conflict, war strategy and peace initiatives. Considered physically less capable of working in the conflict ridden zones
The visits to conflict areas are either military sponsored or sometimes, LTTE assisted. Either way, neither party allows easy access to all areas or to information. Both sides offer a distorted and biased picture. However, the coverage of the conflict by women demonstrated diversity with more angles being covered. Women reporters emphasized on the humanitarian crisis, about health, hygiene, child recruitment, soil and water contamination, psychological needs, environmental degradation and women as victims male reporters in contrast confined themselves to confine reporting to events, military strategy and statistics.

Back to Research index

NWMI Bangalore meeting, February 9 to 11, 2007

Paper presented by Dilrukshi Handunnetti, Editor-Investigations and Political Correspondent, The Sunday Leader, Sri Lanka

Overview
Is there any reasons for the Indian media to show collective interest in covering Sri Lanka’s raging conflict? If yes, what are they?

It is now an established fact that several Tamil militant groups including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) received military training in different parts in India since the early 1970’s. This fact was never reported in the Indian media at that time. The state did not recognise this fact either. Politically, this extension of support was interpreted to be an indication of India’s unofficial assistance to a northern Tamil movement to carve out a separate homeland/state. Official war broke out in 1983 with the killing of 13 government troops and the Sinhelese responded with a terrible ethnic backlash. When violence escalated in the north and there was significant delay in sending essential supplies to the north, the Rajiv Gandhi administration air dropped dhal and rice to “feed the starving Tamil population”. This diplomatic faux pas soured Indo-Lanka relations drastically. Then came the political phase. In 1987, the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was signed between Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J R Jayawardene to move towards a political settlement.
As a consequence, power was devolved in Sri Lanka through the setting up of provincial councils.
Indian troops, known as the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) arrived in Sri Lanka to assist government forces to militarily crush the LTTE and other militant organizations operating in the north. The IPKF was soon in open conflict with the LTTE. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991 in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu by a LTTE woman suicide bomber named Thenmuli Rajaratnam. He was on a political campaign.

How does the Indian media cover the Sri Lankan conflict?
For this exercise, three journalists were tasked to survey the Indian print and television media. The ad hoc survey covered the period of 2000-2006 December. The survey led us to reach the following conclusions.

The Sri Lankan conflict was one of the most reported and less analyzed stories in India. The spill over effect has not caused Indian media to report the many angles to the conflict from the Indian perspective. Any kind on reporting on Sri Lanka could be largely classified into two categories-the promotion of the country’s image as an exotic and historical land or as the war torn neighbour.Regular reporting of incidents such as casualties, bombings, capture of land and increasing refugees to some extent gets recorded in the Tamil Nadu media.The Hindu has a Colombo correspondent and Narayan Swamy reports from New Delhi. It is obvious that one of the biggest stories as well as a human tragedy is of no significance. The general Indian reporting on the Sri Lankan conflict, despite the serious political and security implications to India appeared event- based. Different regions/states covered the conflict differently.

North — Largely event-based. More political angles covered such as pace talks, Norwegian facilitation and Premier Manmohan Singh’s regular appeals to the Colombo administration to resume talks. The stories dealt with statistics than issues. There were few reports on the humanitarian crisis. More knee jerk stories.
South — There was consistent coverage. The South also had a lot of local stories. The coverage was broad. The stories/clippings urging support for the Northern Tamil populations. Some were full of advocacy- ie; the need for a separate Tamil homeland in northern Sri Lanka. A few stories traced the historical relations between South Indian and Sri Lanka. With the outbreak of war in 2006, wave of fresh reporting ensued on the question of Sri Lankan refugees. Following the 2002 truce between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some 70,000 Sri Lankan refugees returned to Sri Lanka. At that time, a little over 200,000-made South Indian camps their home. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Karunandhi and General Secretary, MDMK, V Gopalaswamy alias Vaiko dominated the stories.
A positive phase in reporting was experienced during the same period. There was a fair balance of reports based on statistics as well as issues. More opinion pieces published. Humanitarian crisis significantly covered.
Assam — Was more radical in reporting. There was a certain level of advocacy. Largely sympathetic to the Tamil cause.The overall reporting showed lacked in depth coverage and a serious lack vibrant discussion. Event based reporting. The above despite serious political and security implications for India.

SRI LANKA — Politics of presence and the invisibility of women
Women representation at the dialogue level. No women have been included in the island’s peace process in a real way. Cosmetic representation was given to women when Housing and Public Amenities Minister and a Muslim political party leader, Ferial Ashraff was included in the government delegation during the only round of peace talks held since the ascendancy of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The LTTE also included a woman during the same round of talks.

Women as experts — There are no women experts generally commenting on the peace process, conflict or the political aspects of the same. There isn’t a strong enough voice raised by the elected women legislators as well. Some women activists focus on human rights, the humanitarian crisis and psychological needs of victims of war. Few women have done academic work — Dr. Rajini Thiranagama who was critical both of the government and the LTTE and wrote a book titled the “Broken Palmyra” was killed in Jaffna by the LTTE
Government forces — Employs women but none of them have ended as the commander in chief or as chief of staff, the two top ranks Only two years ago, SLAF began recruiting women as cadet pilots Women perform non-combatant duties in all three forces. No woman has reached beyond a certain rank in all three armed forces. The only woman who reached a rank of recognition was Premila Diwakara, a Superintendent of Police (SP)

LTTE cadres — LTTE has a separate women’s brigade named “Malathi”. The Liberation Tigers recruit child soldiers, both male and female children. Women were originally used for LTTE propaganda work. Later women began performing a special duty within the LTTE frame work — as human bombs

The pictures below show LTTE with child recruits:

Women journalists less visible in conflict coverage
Just a handful have entered this beat when they do, they cover the conflict from Colombo by analyzing reports or dealing with the political aspects. There is still competition from male colleagues to secure this beat women reporters are less likely to be given a beat that is considered “extremely male”
Women perceived by most editors to be lacking in depth knowledge about conflict, war strategy and peace initiatives. Considered physically less capable of working in the conflict ridden zones
The visits to conflict areas are either military sponsored or sometimes, LTTE assisted. Either way, neither party allows easy access to all areas or to information. Both sides offer a distorted and biased picture. However, the coverage of the conflict by women demonstrated diversity with more angles being covered. Women reporters emphasized on the humanitarian crisis, about health, hygiene, child recruitment, soil and water contamination, psychological needs, environmental degradation and women as victims male reporters in contrast confined themselves to confine reporting to events, military strategy and statistics.

Back to Research index

Tuesday, 07 January 2014 12:11

Study on the coverage of elections 2004

Written by

Monitoring television content: Citizen's response

Source: Study conducted by Viewers Forum and Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR)

Rationale

The 2004 General elections began with the NDA government releasing ads with the slogans `India Shining' and speaking of the `feel good factor '. It asked the public for a renewed mandate on its positive economic / development record. It also fought this election on a personality plank: Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee against Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Congress president. These became the focus of the 2004 election campaign for both the Government and the main Opposition parties.

For the first time, a general election campaign was covered in such an extensive manner by multiple 24-hour TV news channels. Given this extensive TV coverage, Election 2004 has been termed the first `live’ TV election in the country. Some have gone so far as to say these elections were contested on TV rather than on the ground. Also, for the first time, political parties such as the BJP and Congress set up TV news monitoring cells to track the coverage.

Scope of present study

In view of the number of 24-hour news channels and the importance given to the electronic media’s coverage, Viewers' Forum and CFAR felt it important to monitor TV news coverage of Election 2004. The aim was to examine:

  • The parameters within which TV channels framed the issues thrown up during the campaign
  • The coverage of issues directly concerning voters
  • The focus of the coverage: was it on human development issues or was it more about personalities?
  • How far the TV channels were balanced in their coverage of issues, parties, personalities, etc

Viewers forum

The Viewers' Forum is an audience collective and community-centred initiative. The objectives of Viewers’ Forum are to create a forum where consumers, media advocates, policy makers, media planners, sponsors, broadcasters and TV producers can meet and exchange viewpoints; to inform and improve the quality of consumer participation in the on-going public discourse on the media, especially television and to empower viewers so that they can play a role in helping to shape the media they consume.

This media monitoring study of Election 2004 was conducted on a daily and week-to-week basis. A dozen women representing a cross-section of voters - middle class housewives, basti-dwellers, physically challenged - have helped conduct the study.

Sample

The monitoring study covers a two-month period from 8 March to 7 May, 2004. This report summarises findings based on data processed for the above period over a total of nine weeks.

Period:

Week 1
8 March 2004 - 12 March 2004
Week 2
15 March 2004 - 19 March 2004
Week 3
22 March 2004 - 26 March 2004
Week 4
29 March 2004 - 2 April 2004
Week 5
5 April 2004 - 9 April 2004
Week 6
12 April 2004 - 16 April 2004
Week 7
19 April 2004-24 April 2004
Week 8
26 April 2004 - 30 April 2004
Week 9
3 May 2004 - 7 May 2004


Channels:

DD News and the top private, satellite 24-hour news channels in the North, namely, Aaj Tak, NDTV 24X7 (only English channel), NDTV INDIA, Star News, Zee News.

Bulletins monitored
A total of 871 news bulletins across nine weeks.

Spread of bulletins:

  • Weekdays: Four major bulletins on each channel, Monday-Friday
  • Timing: Between 9.00 and 21.30

Bulletins were monitored for 30 minutes, beginning on the hour. With the election coverage attracting considerable advertising, actual period of news bulletins varied. Commercial breaks per half-hour were between six-nine minutes. Aaj Tak registered the longest commercial breaks- sometimes at ten minutes per half-hour.

Coverage of national and development stories

Though election coverage was as high as 60 per cent across the news channels, major national and development issues received poor coverage. A mere 4.3 per cent of the election-related news was based on national (1.6 per cent ) and development issues (2.7 per cent).

Coverage of development story as main subject

Development Story
Frequency (%)
Local Self Governance
1.13%
Development
0.45%
Water
0.21%
Agriculture
0.15%
Infrastructure/Civic Amenities
0.15%
Poverty
0.12%
Human Rights
0.07%
Drought
0.06%
Employment/Unemployment
0.06%
Electricity
0.04%
Women
Frequency(%)
Women related stories
0.28%
Women’s Rights
0.12%
Women’s Reservation
0.08%
Women-others
0.06%
Women- Girl Education
0.02%


The J&K Permanent Resident [Disqualification] Bill, 2004 is not included in this table.

In general, development was mentioned in passing during campaigns speeches and manifestos, etc. For example, the period 5 April to16 April registered an increase in development coverage because `vikas’ featured as an election promise in the NDA, Samajwadi Party manifestos and the Congress Vision Document.

In the last three weeks of the election- 19 April to 7 May- development issues were spoken of in campaign speeches, interviews or when voters questioned the lack of development in their constituencies and threatened to boycott the elections.

Local self-governance received relatively more coverage, finding mention in campaign speeches. Unemployment / employment received some coverage in week one (8 March to 12 March) and week six (12 April to 16 April). In week one it featured as part of the `India Shining’ ad campaign controversy. In week six it recurred in campaign speeches (especially Vajpayee’s).

In National Issues, Bofors and Sonia Gandhi surfaced in week five (5th April to9th April) after a newspaper revived the controversy.

Religion / communalism / secularism were largely ignored with only one per cent of the coverage. Ayodhya only surfaced as a major issue in week five when it was included in the NDA manifesto, released that week. It is interesting that though L.K.Advani and Sonia Gandhi campaigned in Gujarat, the communal riots of 2002 were ignored as an election issue by them - and the media.

Women’s issues received negligible coverage. When they did, it was in a specific context: the J&K Permanent Resident [Disqualification] Bill, 2004 (week one) which received 1.4 per cent of the election coverage; the sari stampede in Lucknow (week six) and in week nine (3 May to 7 May) Mehbooba Mufti's lifting the 'burkha' of an NC worker during her campaign, created a controversy.

Across channels, the coverage of development and national issues was uniformly poor. Star News and the NDTV channels had more coverage of them while the national, public broadcaster, DD News had the lowest.

Coverage of political parties

In our data, we found that political parties received two types of coverage:

  • Visual footage combined with sound bytes from campaign speeches, press conferences, party meetings or individual candidates / spokespersons asked a question
  • Exclusive interviews with politicians, officials, the public on individual channels
Visual Footage/Sound bytes
Frequency in %
Quotes
33%
Campaigns/Rallies
20%
Press Conference
13%
Interviews
12%
Party Headquarters
4%
Party Meetings
3%

Coverage of political parties based on audio-visual feeds 

Party
Frequency
Per cent
BJP
1366
44.5
Congress
966
31.5
SP
85
2.7
JD(U)
82
2.6
RJD
62
2
NCP
62
2
PDP
55
1.8
BSP
48
1.5
Independents
41
1.3
CPM AND CPI
38
1.2
TDP
37
1.2
SHIV SENA
30
0.9
NC
26
0.8
INLD
21
>1
TRS
18
>1
DMK
17
>1
BJD
16
>1
AkaliI Dal
13
>1
Trinamul Gana Parishad
12
>1
Lok Jan Shakti
12
>1
AIADMK
9
>1
JD (S)
9
>1
AGP
2
>1
JMM
2
>1
BJYM
1
>1
BKS
1
>1

Political / Religious Groups: Hurriyat-3, VHP/RSS-24

On calculating the coverage parties received on the basis of the audio-visual feeds we found:

These general elections were contested by 42 political parties. On TV news channels, 26 political parties received varying degrees of coverage. The remaining 16 political parties were ignored. From a national and regional party perspective, seven national parties completely dominated TV news channels with 85 per cent of the total election coverage.


The media treated the elections as a straight contest between the two main national parties - BJP and Congress. Even here, the BJP dominates coverage across all weeks, all channels. The gap between the BJP and the Congress is considerable – approximately 15 per cent. However Congress has an edge in the category of stories related to Electoral Procedures (Ticket Distribution and Filing Nominations). The reason mainly being Sonia Gandhi and the entry of the young brigade in the Congress Party.


Five other parties receive between 3-2 per cent each, another six get only 1 per cent each, and the remaining 3 parties received less than one per cent coverage each. Parties from the South receive poor coverage - DMK and AIADMK are almost out of the picture.


In terms of pre-poll alliances, the NDA as a coalition receives a little over 50 per cent of the coverage while the Congress and its allies cross 40 per cent. However, the allies of the two parties received very little distinct coverage – 5 per cent for NDA partners of the BJP, 8 per cent for the Congress allies. Parties that did not align with either of these two parties, such as the Samajwadi Party, BSP, CPI- and CPI–M received between 3-1 per cent each.


In the last three weeks, coverage of other parties picked up, going up by seven per cent. This increase is primarily because leaders like Laloo Prasad Yadav were involved in poll related controversies such as the Chapra re-pollng issue. Secondly, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh of the SP are heard from more frequently as exit polls, after every phase of polling, indicated a possible hung Parliament that could see the SP play an important role in government formation. Moreover, this was the period when Vajpayee claimed in the course of his campaign that the SP and NDA thought alike. The SP strenuously denied this.


Political personalities


If the coverage of political parties was completely dominated by BJP and Congress, this coverage became further concentrated when we look at the politicians most often quoted / seen. Over nine weeks, we found that a few top leaders from the two parties received the most coverage: the top 6 BJP politicians account for 72 per centof the sound bytes from BJP leaders while the top seven Congress leaders account for 57 prercent of Congress sound bytes.

Coverage of top party leaders

BJP’s top Spokesperson
Frequency
Congress’s top spokesperson
Frequency
L.K. Advani
322
7.6%
Sonia Gandhi
210
5%
A.B.Vajpayee
233
5.5%
Kapil Sibal
146
3.5%
V. Naidu
143
3.4%
Rahul Gandhi
75
1.8%
A. Jaitely
121 2.8%
A Soni
41
0.9%
M.A.Naqvi
95
2.2%
A Sharma
32
> 1%
P.Mahajan
67
1.6%
P Mukherjee
28
> 1%
   
Priyanka Gandhi
25
> 1%
Total
981
23.4%
 
557
13.2%
Other party main spokespersons Frequency
Laloo Yadav (RJD) 91 2.2%
Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party)
62 1.5%
Sharad Pawar (NCP) 48 1.1%
George Fernandes (JDU) 45 1%
Mayawati (BSP) 36 0.85%
Amar Singh (Samajwadi Party) 35 0.85%

These leaders were either major party leaders – Vajpayee, Advani, Venkaiah Naidu, Sonia Gandhi - or party spokespersons such as Kapil Sibal, Ambika Soni, M.A Naqvi. The Gandhi children were immediate media darlings as soon as they decide to enter into the political arena in Week 4.


For the other parties, the only politicians who received significant coverage were the leaders of individual parties like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh, Sharad Pawar and George Fernandes.

Individual political personalities
The three top leaders – A.B.Vajpayee and L.K.Advani of BJP and Sonia Gandhi of Congress - together cornered 25 per cent of the coverage devoted to politicians.

L.K. Advani received as much coverage as the three highest placed Congress leaders: Sonia Gandhi, Kapil.Sibal and Rahul Gandhi. This is almost entirely due to coverage of his Uday Yatra during the first six weeks. In the next three weeks, when his Yatra was over, his appearances on TV were lower than Vajpayee, Sonia Gandhi, Venkaiah Naidu or even BJP spokesperson, Naqvi.


Conversely, A.B.Vajpayee barely figures in the first month of coverage of the campaign. However, in the last three weeks, he receives the highest coverage. Thus, between them, the two top BJP leaders remained the most visible political personalities across the nine weeks.


Sonia Gandhi was the only Congress leader to receive coverage throughout our monitoring period. Other than Sonia Gandhi, there was poor representation of women throughout. Whereas Mayawati, Ambika Soni, Mehbooba Mufti, Sushma Swaraj, Sheila Dixit and Priyanka Gandhi receive some coverage, Chief Ministers Jayalalitha, Vasundharaje Scindia, Uma Bharati and Trinamool’s Mamta Banerjee are conspicuous by their virtual absence.

Star personalities 
Film actors like Govinda and Dharmendra who joined the Congress and BJP, respectively, received more coverage than many regular individual politicians.

Election commission

Inspite of the electoral procedures being ranked as the second highest category in the election coverage and a number of controversies - opinion polls, political parties’ ad campaigns, poll violations and poll violence - the EC maintained a low profile. The Election Commission received a mere 3 percent of the coverage.

Public voices

Public representation was 12.5. per cent over the entire monitoring period. The last three weeks saw higher coverage for the public on account of news channels like Star News, NDTV’s channels and DD News introducing specific segments in which the public posed questions to politicians. These were Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (Star), Gaon Gaon Se (NDTV India) and Kaante Ki Takkar (DD News).


However, women’s representation in the public was very poor.

Story variations


In terms of individual story categories, the channels had major variations. These included the following:

  • The election campaign of different parties/personalities dominated the election coverage. DD News registered the highest coverage (284 times/712 minutes) and NDTV 24X7 the lowest (182 times/262 minutes)
  • DD News’ coverage of UdayYatra (188 minutes) was more than double the Yatra’s coverage on NDTV India and Zee News (73 minutes each), three times more than Star News (52 minutes) and four times the coverage on NDTV 24X7 ( 47 minutes) and Aaj Tak ( 45 minutes).
  • Overall, Uday Yatra received six times the coverage of Sonia’s roadshow. DD News gave Sonia’s roadshow the most visibility with 37 minutes – this almost equaled the combined coverage of the other 5 channels. Aaj Tak had the lowest coverage (5 minutes).
  • Vajpayee’s campaign was dominant on DD (139min) followed by NDTV India (81 min). NDTV 24x7 has the lowest coverage on Vajpayee’s campaign (51 min). Aaj Tak, Star News and Zee News had an average of 60 minutes coverage.
  • PR and AD campaigns was highest on Star News (42 min) and lowest on Zee News (20 min)
  • The range for the other channels was between 25-35 minutes.
  • Inter-party politicking was high on four channels – Aaj Tak, Star News, DD News, and NDTV India.
  • Alliances was on highest on NDTV India (70 min) and lowest on Aaj Tak (26 min).
  • Stories related to EC were high on NDTV India (216 min) Star News (200 min) and DD News (192 min) and lowest on Zee News (109 min).
  • Star personalities received the most coverage on Star News (46 minutes) and NDTV India (42 minutes). DD News had the lowest with 14 minutes.
  • Personal attacks on politicians found highest coverage on Aaj Tak (54 minutes) - that was almost double of Star News (26 minutes). The remaining four channels accorded low priority: between 15 minutes (NDTV India) and 6 minutes on DD News.
  • DD News had the highest coverage in four areas – in the overall party campaigns, Uday Yatra, Sonia’s roadshow and manifestos. This indicates a high degree of selectivity since DD News’ overall coverage of the elections was lower than most other channels at 58 per cent. 
    NDTV 24X7 had the lowest overall coverage especially for Uday Yatra, Inter party politicking, party campaigns, ticket distribution.


Variation in coverage of political parties


The coverage of political parties was fairly similar across channels. It may be noted, however, that

  • DD News devoted maximum coverage to BJP and Congress with BJP receiving almost double that given to the Congress. DD News had the lowest coverage on RJD, JD(U) and NCP.
  • Zee News was the lowest on BJP, Congress and RJD.

Channel variation of political personalities

If we look at the channel coverage, of the total coverage received by the top BJP leadership, we find tha pattern consistent with earlier findings – that is the BJP and Congress received high coverage on DD News

  • DD News scored the highest with 22 %
  • Low coverage for the top six BJP leaders was on Aaj Tak and NDTV 24X7, with 13% each

For the top Congress leaders-

  • NDTV India (20 per cent) and DD News (19%) had the highest coverage
  • NDTV 24x7 and Star News had the lowest with 14%

Coverage of individual political personalities

  • DD gave Vajpayee, L.K.Advani and Sonia Gandhi the most coverage.
  • NDTV’s channels registered the lowest sound- bytes for L.K. Advani.
  • Vajpayee and Sonia were high on DD News and NDTV India.
  • Vajpayee was lowest on Aaj Tak.
  • Sonia Gandhi was lowest on Star News.
  • Arun Jaitely was very popular on the two NDTV channels.
  • Rahul Gandhi was equally popular with all channels.
  • Laloo Prasad Yadav was most visible on NDTV India and barely seen on Zee News and DD News.
  • Mulayam Singh Yadav had high visibility on NDTV and low on Aaj Tak and NDTV 24X7, Aaj Tak and DD News.

Highlights of findings

  • High coverage of elections across channels.
  • All India coverage.
  • Variations in coverage across weeks, channels.
  • Intensive and concentrated coverage in terms of stories, parties, personalities.
  • National and Development issues very poorly represented.
  • Poor public representation.
  • Dominance of electoral procedures and campaigns and party debates.
  • Political acrimony on India Shining, Sonia Gandhi, Ad campaigns.
  • Opinion polls occupy major space.
  • Dominance of BJP and Congress with BJP coverage higher.
  • Other parties receive poor coverage.
  • A.B.Vajpayee, L.K.Advani and Sonia Gandhi dominant.

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April 2003
Ammu Joseph

The world's media, which besieged the New York headquarters of the United Nations in March 2003, hungry for news from the beleaguered Security Council on the proposed war on Iraq, paid little attention to the fact that a document meant to provide a boost to the participation and access of women to the media, as well as information and communications technologies (ICTs), was being discussed elsewhere in the building during that period.

The "agreed conclusions" on the subject were ultimately adopted by the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on 14 March 2003, the last day of its 47th session, after two weeks of deliberations and negotiations. The document is expected to provide direction for policy and action at the national and international levels to promote the use of media and ICTs for the advancement and empowerment of women.

Interestingly, the session was unusually and dramatically suspended later that evening because no consensus could be reached on the final document relating to the second theme under consideration by the CSW this year: violence against women. But that, too, went largely unnoticed by the war-obsessed media.

Given the fact that this was the first time the Commission was focusing attention on ICTs and that there is currently considerable international interest in the World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva 2003 and Tunis 2005), it was perhaps inevitable that ICTs should have overtaken, even taken over, the media in various CSW-related documents, including the agreed conclusions. However, it is still regrettable. Fifteen of the 24 actions recommended by the Commission do mention the media, but the document is weaker than it would have been if the media had not been arbitrarily clubbed with ICTs in most instances.

Thanks to the neglect of "traditional" media in all the excitement about the "new" media during the CSW session, the final document does not reflect the fresh thinking on issues of gender and the media across the world, which was evident in the process leading up to the meeting.

The media and ICT-related process included an online discussion over a four-week period in August-September 2002 and two expert group meetings (EGMs) convened by the UN Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) in collaboration with other UN entities in November 2002. While one EGM, held in Beirut, focused on the "participation and access of women to the media, and the impact of media on and its use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women," the other, which took place in Seoul, concentrated on "information and communication technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women." The reports of the two EGMs are supposed to have formed the basis of the UN Secretary General's report to the Commission on the theme of women and the media and ICTs. The first day of the CSW session, which began on 3 March, featured a panel discussion during which speakers highlighted key issues relating to the theme, including those contained in the EGM reports.

Many of the points made in the report of the EGM on women and the media are missing in the final document. For instance, it does not adequately address the increasingly complex environment in which the media now operate, in the wake of the recent and ongoing transformation of global media systems, especially in terms of ownership, financing and control, not to mention the impact of globalization. The Beirut EGM had pointed out that issues relating to gender and the media had to be viewed and understood in this context if they were to be effectively tackled.

Similarly, the CSW document does not sufficiently reflect EGM recommendations on policies as enabling frameworks. One result of this is that it does not adequately address issues such as women's right to information and communication, the relevance and role of public service media, the need for both independence and accountability in the media, and so on. Nor does the document deal with a number of EGM recommendations on women's access to employment and decision-making, including the importance of ensuring the access and participation of women who are variously disadvantaged (by race/ethnicity/caste, religion, health/ability, etc.). In addition, the document fails to reflect the new thinking and strategies outlined in the EGM report that could be used to improve the situation with regard to representation, portrayal and other content-related issues.

The report of the Beirut EGM clearly highlighted the need for action is to tackle the continuing under-representation of women in both media professions and content, and their misrepresentation in the latter. The fact that content remains a problem even in the new millennium was underscored by the results of new research presented at a side-event that took place during the CSW session.

One of the many interesting findings of the Southern African Gender and Media Baseline Study, the regional report of which was launched at the event, was that women's views and voices continue to be grossly under-represented in the media. For instance, the multi-country study found that women constitute 17 per cent of known news sources (which is close to the global figure of 18 per cent revealed by the Global Media Monitoring Project in 2000), even though they constitute 52 per cent of the population in the region. The study, spearheaded by Gender Links and the Media Institute of Southern Africa, examined news coverage in a range of media across 12 countries of the region over a one-month period (September 2002). The survey included both print and electronic media in the private, public and community sectors, covered 36 per cent of the media in southern Africa, and involved both quantitative and qualitative analysis.

The neglect of some of these media-specific matters is clearly due to the fact that the media seem to have been tagged on to ICTs, without much thought, throughout the discussions leading up to the final document. While the media and ICTs are clearly related, there are obviously some issues that are more relevant and critical to one or the other. Those that relate specifically to the media in the new millennium could perhaps have been more seriously and constructively addressed by the CSW.

Nevertheless, a number of actions contained in the agreed conclusions of the 47th session of the CSW may well help address the remaining hurdles in the way of women's access to and participation in the media and ICTs. They also highlight the need to ensure that the media, information and communication promote women's equality and human rights, including their right to freedom of expression and to information. 

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