THE VIEWER AND LISTENER:
ISSUES OF GENDER AND MARGINALISATION
Indian International Centre, New Delhi
14-16 February 2002
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page, IDS; Gowher Rizvi, Representative, Ford Foundation; Dilip
Padgaonkar, Managing Editor, Times of India; Khushboo Sunder;
Rajiv Kumar, DDG Doordarshan; Jaya Ramanathan, Vice-President,
Star India; Kanak Dixit, Himal Association.
THE ELECTRONIC MEDIA RESPONSIVE TO CIVIL SOCIETY?
Karnik, President, NASSCOM; Manju Thapa of Asmita; Nayeem ul
Islam Khan of BCDJC; Dr Sunil Wijesiriwardena of Vibhavi, Rajiv
Mehrota of PSBT; Nitin Paranjpye of Abhivaykti.
BY MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES
Radhika Surjit, Producer, Jaya TV; Ajai Sinha, Ananda Films
; Nupur Basu, NDTV; Ananya Chatterjee, Tara Bangla.
CFAR presentation II
APPROACHES TO ADVOCACY
Sen, Madhyam; Sazzad Hossain, BCDJC; S. Thiruchandran, Women’s
Education and Research Centre; K.Bharati, AIDWA; Dr Suresh,
PUCL; Gargi Sen, Magic Lantern Foundation; Chandita Mukherjee,
Comet Media Foundation
CAN THE MEDIA BE MORE RESPONSIVE TO THE PUBLIC INTEREST?
Indica Research; Santosh Desai, McCann-Erickson India Ltd.
MEDIA AND CIVIL SOCIETY - ARE WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS BEING
Opening remarks - David Page, Co-Director, Media
South Asia project, Institute for Development Studies, Sussex University.
David Page welcomed the participants on behalf of
the Media South Asia project and the Centre for Advocacy and Research.
He explained the background to the MSA project and the research which
had led to the publication of ‘Satellites over South Asia’. The research
had attempted to evaluate the impact of the satellite revolution regionally
as well as nationally. Satellite broadcasts did not respect national
borders and the most popular channels were being seen across the whole
region. The state monopoly of broadcasting had been broken but the
state had been slow to see what its role should be in the new situation.
Programme makers had also been slow to assume responsibility to audiences
beyond their prime target areas. As far as civil society is concerned,
the research showed that public opinion, even in the districts, was
extraordinarily resilient but it was not making itself felt very effectively.
Though many organisations were concerned about the impact of the new
media, few were monitoring it systematically and engaging with the
channels on behalf of civil society.
One aim of the workshop was to bring together a range of different
organisations from across South Asia with an interest in media monitoring
and advocacy, to explore their concerns and to see what they had in
common. If the satellite channels were creating some sort of new South
Asian popular culture, was there anything that could be defined as
a South Asian civil society response? The other aim was to provide
an introduction to the work of the Centre for Advocacy and Research,
to look at how it does its work and to explore what might be replicable
nationally and regionally.
Gowher Rizvi, Representative, Ford Foundation, New
Delhi outlined some of India’s economic and social achievements in
the past 50 years - the increase in food production, life expectancy
and literacy. But he said global comparisons put south Asia in a less
favourable light in terms of poverty, literacy and health - the overlapping
categories of marginalisation. The Ford Foundation had decided to
concentrate its activity in future on the mainstream social and economic
challenges faced by south Asia. He welcomed the workshop because of
its concentration on issues of marginalisation and the role the media
could play in addressing them.
Dilip Padgaonkar, Executive Managing Editor, Times
of India said that sponsorship and commercial pressures meant that
it was difficult to tell the difference between the truths, half truths
and lies carried by the media. Entertainment had become the bugbear.
But from the point of view of the print media he said there were encouraging
changes in the newsrooms. There were more women staff and a greater
sensitivity which could be a catalyst for change; writing on food
was one example of this. He noted particularly a greater sensitivity
in Marathi newspapers, reflecting a tradition of social reform in
Maharashtra. But he said that change in the print media would have
to come from readers making newsrooms aware of their concerns. Letters
from listeners had an important influence on media planners and had
helped in creating a sharp focus on changes in society.
Khushboo Sunder, TV and Film Actress, said that television
portrayed only two kinds of women, the sari-clad heroine or the ‘bad
woman’ - the vamp. But she said that in her own series the heroine
was not a traditional woman. She stressed a need to present women
as strong and fully able to manage both a family and a career. Women
want to fight vicarious battles for their independence and rights;
to be shown standing up to their mother in law for example. Cinema
tended to reinforce stereotypes but the risks of portraying strong
women were smaller on TV. TV viewership should be aimed at women and
should also portray the problems they face from other women. She said
that rural women do not believe in the stereotype of the ‘godlike
husband’ - the ‘pati-devta’ myth.
Rajiv Kumar, DDG, Prasar Bharati, representing DG
S.Y.Qureishi, affirmed the strong public broadcasting concerns of
Prasar Bharati. Doordarshan had been overburdened by commissioning
programmes from outside producers and it needed to go back to its
core public service broadcasting commitment, bearing in mind that
public service programmes have to compete with other channels. Rajiv
Kumar said that Doordarshan was open to discussion of issues raised
by workshop participants and other critics. These included concerns
about the increasing commercial origination of public service programmes
and about challenges to the independence of TV; it was also claimed
that Doordarshan had rejected programmes on issues of major public
interest such as communalism.
Jaya Ramanathan, Vice-President, Star India asked
how realistic it was to expect private commercial media to report
on development. She made a comparison with the ‘development page’
of newspapers: in television terms, such dedicated slots meant a loss
of viewership, though development stories were now incorporated into
news bulletins. But she said that private channels carried public
service messages with inputs from NGOs and other agencies. There was
such keen competition between them that sometimes they lost sight
of the fundamental objective. Jaya Ramanathan concluded by saying
that there was a responsibility on the part of viewers and civil society
to ensure that public service broadcasting was maintained.
Kanak Dixit, Editor, Himal Magazine Kathmandu, underlined
the need for monitoring which leads to a critique of the print media,
television and the neglected medium of radio. At present, he said,
such monitoring barely exists. One influence of film is that gestures
defined externally are spreading all over south Asia - the so-called
‘Harlem gesture’ previously was not recognised in south Asia. For
the international TV channels, audiences in Kathmandu as in Baluchistan
or Dhaka were regarded as ‘add-on’ audiences by media planners. No
consideration was given to their perspective. In times of instability,
body language on TV was important; for example an interviewer’s ‘indulgent
smile’ when interviewing someone from Pakistan created a dissonance
which was a major problem. It was too much to expect that there could
be a strong south Asian regional voice, but there were voices within
India itself which could achieve much the same purpose. Zee TV took
no account of the Nepalese market; for example the coverage of the
hijack of IC814 had been unfair to the state of Nepal. It was in the
advertisers’ interest to talk to Zee TV because this lack of awareness
meant that they were losing out in an important market. The structure
of the media was too far from the ground; the advent of regional TV
was welcome but they were emulating the big channels when what was
needed was greater localisation - ‘let a thousand TV channels bloom’.
News, he said, was meant to be objective not to be dictated by the
sentiments of the populace. Since satellite TV, the Indian intellectual
critique of ‘cultural imperialism’ had disappeared .
Nayeemul Islam Khan of BCDJC (Bangladesh Centre for
Development Journalism and Communication) Dhaka, commented that so
far no Indian channel had taken any notice of the February 21st commemoration
in Bangladesh of the language martyrs of 1952, although the day was
recognised by the United Nations as International Mother Tongue Day,
- a symbol of a common heritage and a basis of solidarity in south
Akhila Sivadas, Executive Director, Centre for Advocacy
and Research, gave a vote of thanks to the speakers and welcomed delegates
to the workshop with an outline of the programme for the following
2030 - DINNER AT INDIAN INTERNATIONAL CENTRE
15 February 2002
0930-1100: Are the ELECTRONIC media responsive to Civil Society?
- A Regional assesssment ?
Chairperson- Kiran Karnik, President, NASSCOM
Manju Thapa, Editor of Asmita, the Nepali women’s
mgazine, explained that she had started a mediawatch column in the
magazine which looked at the print media, TV and radio. Asmita was
also producing a radio programme for Radio Sagarmatha on women’s issues
and had begun TV monitoring of teleserials. She said many women ‘
do not find themselves in teleserials ’ which project the upper middle
class. Fictional conflict leads to emulation of the bad characteristics
of upper middle class families and discourages marriage. Post Beijing,
Nepali media were ‘ a little more sensitive’ but journalists still
did not have the concepts or the skill to project these issues. There
was no feedback to media organisations. She was hoping to develop
a specific programme and methodology to promote greater awareness
in the media and civil society of these issues.
Nayeem ul Islam Khan of the Bangladesh Centre for
Development Journalism and Communication outlined the work his organisation
is doing to foster impartiality in the divided Bangladeshi media,
particularly the press. As part of FEMA (the Fair Election Monitoring
Alliance) it had appealed to the press to cover all the main political
parties. In some cases, political leaders had not been covered at
all by papers supporting their opponents. His own paper had abandoned
regular editorials and had set out to be a forum for all points of
view - summarising news covered in other papers and analysing content
in particular fields like the environment and women’s representation.The
paper had different editions for different regions but people also
wanted regional problems to be known at a policy making level in Dhaka.
Nayeem hosts a daily TV programme on Channel I which looks at news
coverage and a weekly programme in which people are asked for their
opinions on particular stories. As far as Bangladesh television is
concerned, Nayeem thought that cumulatively the available channels
do cover most stories, and there had been some innovative programming
for adolescents and children on Ekushey TV. He argued that TV does
engage with civil society but that monitoring and advocacy were still
in their early stages and there was a need for more systematic work.
Dr Sunil Wijesiriwardena, Executive Director of Vibhavi,
said that in Sri Lanka commercial TV programmes had been welcomed
in the 1990s as ‘ different’ after years of a politicised, state controlled
media and a deterioration of programme standards. But he argued that
the electronic media were not responsive to civil society in Sri Lanka
nor civil society to the electronic media. Civil society had been
more active in the print media field. He had been a member of the
Free Media Movement which had campaigned for less state control and
greater freedom of expression. But electronic media personnel had
not joined. In Sri Lanka now, he said, ‘young people cannot conceptualise
an ad-free medium.... they think it would be boring.... they think
they have to go with the commercialisation model’ Even when the licence
fee was in operation, only 30% paid up, and why should they, he asked,
for the kind of public service broadcasting represented by the state
sector? They do not know that there are other models. Two years ago,
the TV licence had been cancelled without any significant response
from civil society. He had written a number of articles at that time
without any effect. Dr Wijesiriwardena said that the practice of public
service broadcasting was not well developed in Sri Lanka. Some SLBC
radio broadcasters were fully committed to the concept, loved the
broadcasting profession and had carried out valuable local experiments.
But the media had been deeply politicised by the swing of the political
pendulum between SLFP and UNP governments. The commercial stations
had been welcomed and had the potential to become the mainstream model
of public service broadcasting. But he expressed concern that citizens
are now being treated as ‘one-dimensional consumers’. A large section
of society was unhappy with the electronic media but did not respond
to it in an organised way. There is currently little media monitoring,
though there are big civil society networks which could be influential
if they took up these issues. Changes were required in civil society
to enable these issues to be addressed. Dr Wijesiriwardena said that
the development NGO Sarvodaya was one organisation which through its
work in 15,000 villages and its links with bigger networks. could
carry out practical work to counter the influences of politicisation
Rajiv Mehrotra, Managing Trustee, Public Service
Broadcasting Trust, New Delhi, gave the background to the formation
of the trust which he said had been ‘ born of the frustrations of
a practitioner’ and a passionate belief in the capacity of the individual
to make a difference. Looking at the generality of television output,
there was a need to work harder to make interesting stories about
issues that may not be immediately saleable, to encourage craft and
technique and to create processes of accountability on the basis of
regular media monitoring which were accepted by programme makers themselves.
The idea of the trust had grown out of a regular meeting at the India
International Centre to review programmes. It was designed to meet
the need for an independent voice in media coverage of business, politics
and the media itself and to provide some space for creative endeavour
between the state on the one hand and commercial interests on the
other. It had begun in the field of documentary, though he had been
reminded that Public Service Broadcasting should also include cutting
edge consumer programmes, children’s programmes and ‘public access’
programmes which were a means of addressing issues of marginalisation.
With funding from the Ford Foundation meeting half the cost, PSBT
had negotiated an hour a week on Doordarshan for documentaries from
independents which it had commissioned. It had shown that ‘partnership
rather than confrontation’ could pay dividends and that ‘ change is
incrementally possible’ by this route. The discourse on public service
broadcasting needed to shift away from development support programming
to the wider aim of creating a plural public culture, which was accessible
to the public, not talking down to it. The PSBT had taken a small
step but one which he hoped would have wider repercussions.
Nitin Paranjape of Abhivaykti, a development and
communications NGO working in Nasik, gave his view that a media model
in which ‘ a few will produce and thousands will watch... will not
work’. The electronic media were not responsive to civil society and
the mission of Abhivaykti was ‘ to strengthen the voice of the voiceless’.
It was trying to do this by producing low cost materials for dissemination
to both children and parents’ groups, by providing a critique of the
media and by engaging with the channels. It was making progress in
the first two areas but not being very fruitful in the third.
As far as materials are concerned, Abhivaykti is building up an archive
documenting important social struggles like the one against the Narmada
dam. It is also making cassettes of songs and stories chronicling
these kind of realities. In the second field, it has developed a Children’s
Film Park, which meets on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month,
and is intended to be an answer to TV. Now there are 12 organisations
of parents showing films and trying to increase understanding of the
medium and of social issues.
Abhivaykti is also providing courses in media training and criticism
for students in 6th, 7th and 8th classes in some Nasik schools. Most
children had seen Lagaan and most liked it. But they did not realise
it bore little resemblance to historical reality. In the context of
recent Indo-Pak tensions, most children favoured war. They found pleasure
in defeating others. These are some of the dangers fostered by the
media. Abhivaykti’s strategy for dealing with this was to encourage
‘localness’. ‘Their belief in localness is being destroyed’ said Nitin
Paranjpye. No TV channel is local and there are few local newspapers
in the interior. Educated young people were reluctant to go into agriculture.
There is a need to strengthen the local, to build local experience
and culture, value it, and to encourage diversity.
Reflecting on the presentations, Kiran Karnik said
it was important to decide on what conceptual stance to take towards
the media. Are programme makers giving the audience what they want?
or are we in the business of re-engineering society and building taste?
There were many examples of ‘good media getting a good audience’.
Can we all be producers? What are we trying to achieve? And what difference
will the internet make? Is there a danger that search engines will
become monopoly providers like Doordarshan was before?
One option was to work towards the localisation of the media, for
example through community radio. With localisation there were shorter
correction times. Bigger organisations had longer feedback chains
and longer correction times. But the cost and viability of localisation
needed to be worked out. Pilot projects were one thing but could they
As far as coordinating the responses of civil society is concerned,
Kiran Karnik said there were obvious advantages in tapping into organised
groups. But in India, large numbers of groups are religious in character.
Do we want to engage with them? Many of them do good work but what
about their agendas? .
In his view, pamphleteering does not work. There were also dangers
in tokenism. The important question was: how do you affect the mainstream?
One way to do this was to increase the sensitivity of those already
working in communication and Kiran Karnik endorsed the suggestion
that there should be regular meetings to promote this aim.
1130-1215 Introductory Presentation by CFAR- WHY Monitor the Media?
In this session, CFAR explained how it uses media monitoring as a
research tool to measure and qualify the level of marginalisation
or stereotyping that different groups in civil society, especially
women and less-privileged groups, experience in the manner in which
media treats the issues related to their lives.
Akhila Sivadas gave a brief history of the development
of CFAR. It had begun work as the Media Advocacy Group in late 1992,
a critical time when media and politics were ‘on the hinge’ and Satellite
TV was in its very early stages. DD was still dominant, with its 6
kendras across the country, but the commercial and cable onslaught
was about to begin. At that time, they were arguing that public service
broadcasting was possible and women’s representation needed to be
improved but they had ‘ not quite grappled with the challenge they
were facing’. Everyone listened but there was no change. The real
response was: ‘ You don’t know our business’ and in some sense that
Their conclusion was that they needed to study the media more systematically.
New 24 hour news channels had created an upsurge of political interest.
Drawing initially on Swedish formats for broadcasting monitoring,
they began to compare privatised and state-controlled news, setting
benchmarks and looking at the entire way stories were crafted. How
is hard and soft news constructed? What are the priorities? What does
the viewer make of it? They began listener research and developed
a methodology for different types of programmes - soap operas, panel
discussions and chat shows and the mediation of public opinion around
the electoral process. They also looked at how viewers relate to advertising
in terms of individual values. Current approaches had grown out of
these early steps.
Shubra Gupta, film and TV critic and member of the
CFAR advisory committee focussed on responses to fictional programmes
on TV. Viewing was not a passive act; viewers’ likes and dislikes
were brought to bear in watching them. In that sense, TV was an inclusive
medium and the popularity of fiction on TV made it powerful. The popularity
of Hasratein had made it a catalyst for the discussion of issues of
marital discord, in spite of the embarrassment the serial generated
for many people. As with radio fiction, different viewers and listeners
read the messages differently. The baseline for successful programmes
was that of good story telling; all points of view matter and must
be given weight.
Shailaja Bajpai gave a briefing on how CFAR had developed its election
monitoring for India’s first multi-channel election in 1998. Their
objective was to find out what difference the coverage had made -
for the politicians and for the public. This involved drawing up a
research and monitoring programme which involved detailed examination
of the broadcasts and public responses to them. They had taped two
weeks coverage on six channels and they looked at it quantitatively
and qualitatively. Viewers’ forum members were asked to keep diaries.
They were particularly interested in how satellite channels with largely
middle class audiences covered the whole electoral universe and what
sort of coverage was given to women.
The results were instructive. They showed that coverage had been extensive
and very similar in character across the different channels. 70% was
common; only 30% was different. Doordardshan had the most extensive
coverage of India. TVi was good on the North East. Star did best on
development issues. But there were omissions. The Congress and BJP
dominated coverage, with 50% of the total, despite the fact that 43
recognised parties contested. There had been more coverage of regional
parties in the 1999 election campaign.
There was a strong emphasis on personalities - Vajpayee, Advani and
Sonia Gandhi. Because of Sonia Gandhi’s prominence the Bofors issue
had been high on the agenda. The public tended to be featured in special
programmes on issues like water and electricity. Star’s Village Voice
programme provided regular coverage of such issues; there were also
special programmes on Zee. Important issues were raised not by politicians
but by ordinary people. But these ‘people’s concerns’ had tended to
be compartmentalised; the ‘vox pop’ had been an essential but token
element of programmes.
Responses from viewers were mixed. They were pleased at the extensiveness
of election news but dissatisfied that politicians were not dealing
with real issues. Women and young people felt they had been included
more than before. DD’s campaign encouraging people to vote had worked.
From an advocacy point of view, it was positive that there were some
programmes on women. But coverage needed to change. There was too
much of the two parties bickering and not enough on social and economic
realities. There needed to be more effort ‘ to bring politicians to
account’ over these issues.
Commenting on the CFAR presentation, Latika Padgaonkar said she thought
that politicians had learnt to use the media as they wanted. They
had ‘played games with the public’. On programmes like Aap ke Adaalat,
they were self-consciously adapting and playing to the cameras. TV
coverage had quickly become a disappointment
Shangon Dasgupta of Communication for Development and Learning said
that they had done some monitoring of the press, but the press had
not been very interested in the results. Gargi Sen said that in analysing
the media there was a need to be clear about the use of terminology.
Chandita Mukherjee spoke of the need to understand the context in
which programmes were made. Muneera Sen thought it important to focus
on ‘apathy’ among the public and to analyse the role of image managers.
Akhila Sivadas said that CFAR had decided to target its advocacy on
the Election Commission. CFAR had sought the cooperation of the channels
in an awareness campaign among the middle classes who she said were
often indifferent to their obligations as citizens. They had drawn
attention to the fact that some channels had been glorifying criminal
elements. As a result the Election Commission held a meeting to try
to establish norms. Although CFAR’s suggested charter of demands had
not been accepted, Akhila said ‘ if a point is well reasoned, it does
1215-1330 Response from representatives of the media
Radhika Surajit, Producer, Jaya TV, Raj TV
Ajai Sinha, Ananda Films and Telecommunication Pvt. Ltd.
Nupur Basu, Correspondent, NDTV and documentary film maker
Ananya Chatterjee, Chief Producer, Tara Bangla.
Radhika Surajit said she had made programmes on classical dance, the
environment and AIDS, which had been both popular and commercial.
But she complained of mega-serials which she said were full of ‘negativity
and perversion’ and ‘ totally men-dominated’. Their purpose was to
make money and there was a neglect of real issues. The melodrama and
negative characterisation of these serials had a damaging effect on
family relationships and society. Chiti, a current mega-serial, was
‘an unbelievable success’ in the South, but worrying for its violence.
Her own programme, shown at 10 am on Sundays, was popular with the
public but it was difficult to find sponsors. She suggested that sponsors
should be persuaded to ‘ put a proportion of their funding into better
programmes.’ If programmes are good the channels would benefit. Parents
were shocked that their children were growing up without even a simple
knowledge of the elements of Indian culture. She was also concerned
that channels were showing ‘porno stuff’ late at night. In her view,
these kind of programmes should be censored.
Ajai Sinha, the director of Hasratein, said that people don’t have
to watch programmes. ‘ If viewers are still watching a soap after
one year, they must bear the responsibility.’ Warning of the pitfalls
of TV censorship, he said that the problem with speed breakers was
that their size was not decided by qualified people. It was the same
with TV programmes; censorship by unqualified people created a vicious
circle. Channels had to earn their bread and they were all trying
to do something. His role as a director was ‘ taking people ahead
of time’. 10 years ago, TV was ‘ brighter’ than today. In those days,
the fate of a film was decided by the masses. In a reference to the
theme of his latest soap opera he said that in discussing a relationship
(based on a true story) between a sister in law and brother in law,
he was not advocating the practice but recognising that the world
has many bad aspects and seeing it as tragedy.
Nupur Basu of NDTV challenged the view that civil society is not represented
in the media She referred to coverage by Star TV of rural problems
and of the situation in Gujarat one year after the earthquake and
argued that people under-estimated how much had been achieved by the
new TV channels. ‘Zilch is unfair’ she said, referring to various
negative comments from around the workshop. The Tirulnelveli firing
had been given two column inches in the newspapers but television
had investigated it fully. There were other examples. She stressed
the benefits of the independent news channels; there should be no
going back to government censored news. But there were problems of
commerce and commodification. In many channels and newspapers, the
iron curtain between editorial and marketing was disappearing, though
it was still there in NDTV. There was also a certain ‘ cosiness with
politicians’ which was allowing them to run away with the media. These
were trends which needed to be countered. ‘Let us not tolerate media
illiteracy’ she said.
Ananya Chatterjee said she shared Kanak Dixit’s view of TV as an ‘imperialistic
medium’. Fears of homogenisation were real. Indeed it had ‘happened
partially’. The character of youth had changed as a result of exposure
to certain kinds of programmes. In her view, ‘ TV cannot be democratic.
It has to follow the market or it won’t survive.’ She said: ‘We have
to take cultural imperialism because of the cost of the technology’...
‘Radio is much more democratic that TV.’ On TV ratings in her home
state of West Bengal, she said the problem was that they were ‘only
Calcutta-based’. She had made a programme which was very popular in
the districts but it had been taken off the air because it did not
get highTRPs in Calcutta. There is a need for much more feedback to
the channels from civil society.
Ananya had previously worked with Tvi for 5 years and had been able
to do all sorts of programmes with them which were not possible on
other channels. Why had Tvi folded? She put it down to poor marketing
skills. It was not enough to have good intentions and good craft.
You need good marketing to get a good civil response.
In discussion, Gargi Sen said she thought the main problem was that
‘ we are not organised’. Revenue need not only come from the government
or the market. Other initiatives were possible. Dr Suresh said ‘ perhaps
we will be forced to engage with the media’. It was a matter of finding
‘ the chinks and holes in media organisations’, to understand how
they work. This was an area in which advertising agencies could help.
There was also a need to capitalise on existing pressure groups, to
bring them into media campaigns. Film stars could also be a means
of attracting attention to a cause.
D.K.Bose, formerly with Ogilvy and Mather, made the point that extending
TRPs to the rural areas would cost ‘ 30 to 40 crores of rupees’. He
also said he preferred the term ‘Research’ to ‘Monitoring’. A monitor
puts space between self and viewer and does not do justice to the
1430-1630 Practical Group Monitoring Exercises-
Chairperson: D.K.Bose, President, Rural Communication, O&M.
Analysis of clips of TV footage centring on issues of marginalisation,
dis-empowerment, gender roles were provided for analysis. This included
clips from news and current affairs programs as well as from TV fiction.
The workshop broke up into three groups to consider a selection of
clips and reported back in the plenary session.
Simantini Dhuru reported on how her group had reacted to a BBC World
TV report on the first anniversary of the Gujarat earthquake. The
piece had combined three separate stories: a report from a school
where girls were doing emergency drill and the headmistress boldly
criticised government for not doing enough, a report from Anjar where
people were protesting about their conditions, and another on efforts
at rebuilding which brought out differences between town and country.
The group felt that the piece ‘ looked like a quick job’. It did not
provide much detail and there was no use of data. The emphasis was
on people who were complaining. Positive news, for example that no
child had missed her exams, despite the upheaval, was not highlighted.
The group felt it was a missed opportunity, a half told story, an
outsider’s view made for an international audience.
Chandita Mukherjee, reporting on her group’s assessment of the fiction
clips, said that ‘they might have all come from one serial’. There
was a sameness to them which was ‘fatiguing’. The women ‘ seemed to
be under the control of men, struggling to assert themselves.’ The
only oasis of difference was the Bengali clip in which the viewer
was drawn into an intimacy with the characters which was refreshing
16 February 2002
0930-1100: Presentation continues - CFAR response - the role of methodology.
Akhila Sivadas analysed the clips and commented on reactions to them
as a means of highlighting how CFAR does its own research. With the
help of a video, she also illustrated the role of the Viewers’ Forum
in CFAR’s work.
In judging a news story, it was important to study a bulletin over
a period of time in order to place it in context. In general, she
said, in international bulletins ‘ Asia is projected as an area of
strife - rich, variegated, challenging and with a volatile past.’
India watchers should not be underestimated. Many of them were of
a high calibre. A responsible methodology involved looking at the
consistency of the story and working from the text. Analysing the
earthquake story, she said it focussed on ‘people’ rebuilding their
lives. There were a number of vignettes of people. In the first sequence,
the voice of the teacher criticising lack of action by government
‘clinched everything’. Throughout ‘the dominant theme’ was the child.
Advocacy was strong. ‘The grit of civil society is reflected’. At
the same time, it was ‘an outside view’. Everything was coalesced
- urban, rural, young, old. The piece ‘ projects the stoic Indian
and takes away agency in some sense’. Akhila did not agree that it
was ‘a quickie’ but she thought there was inconsistency of treatment.
It touched on rehabilitation but not in detail. ‘If you touch on it,
you should be responsible’ she said.
She regarded the CNN story about Islam and women’s rights as ‘ very
problematic’. Post September 11th, women’s issues had been ‘ further
wracked’. Every single paragraph on women’s rights had been reopened.
For this particular story, a westerner had been brought in deliberately
to replace the normal, capable, Muslim presenter. The whole story
had been ‘ handled like trapezing’.
Akhila then made a short presentation, with video illustrations, on
the development of CFAR’s work and the role of the Viewers’ forum
in generating consumer responses to the media and in advocacy with
the channels. She stressed the importance of study and data in all
media monitoring exercises. In dealing with the mass media, she stressed
the need to distinguish between different points of view and between
different levels of government. It was a dialectical struggle in which
the activist had to be able to conduct an internal check with an awareness
of her own intellectual baggage. The monitor should be prepared to
negotiate as viewer to viewer and not make assumptions about him or
her. The individual voice cannot be stifled in TV; producers are themselves
subject to stress and insecurity. A dialogue with the industry had
to be conducted as an open debate not in accordance with a party line.
Dr Suresh warned that one should not ‘fetishise objectivity’ but ask
why people do things, and be prepared to see the common elements in
subjective viewpoints .
Gargi Sen approved CFAR’s efforts to develop a rigorous methodology.
She said if you go to the Press Council, you need real data. It is
not sufficient to be reflecting the personal opinion of five or ten
D.K.Bose said that the media researcher or scientist should know the
context in which a programme is made and be able to interpret the
creativity which goes into it, the mindset and the body language.
The two other levels of analysis were the images projected and the
words used and how they are received by the viewing public.
1130-1300: Exploring Different Approaches to Advocacy: Sharing
Chairperson- Urvashi Butalia, Co Founder, Kali for Women
Muneera Sen, Director, Madhyam
Sazzad Hossain, Bangladesh Centre for Development Journalism and Communication
S. Thiruchandran, Director, Women’s Education and Research Centre,
K.Bharati, All India Democratic Women’s Organisation, Chennai
Dr Suresh, People Union for Civil Liberties
Gargi Sen, Director , Magic Lantern Foundation
Chandita Mukherjee, Director, Comet Media Foundation
Muneera Sen explained that Madhyam is involved in cultural action
in eight states. It works with folk artists, a very marginalised community,
and does advocacy for them, with DD and elsewhere. Madhyam also produces
a journal. It has produced 9 films on issues like child rights and
AIDS. She also contributed a column on women and law for the Times
of India which ran for three and a half years.
More recently, Madhyam has been making spots on child enrolment in
schools to be shown on Star and Sony. Muneera underlined the need
to have systems in place to deal with responses to any major public
campaign of this kind. An earlier initiative by Jerry Pinto of UNICEF,
setting up a child line, had fallen down in this area and the damage
was still being felt.
Madhyam is attempting to make ‘strategic interventions’ with the media.
There are some sensitive disc jockeys working on radio in Bangalore
and they are one promising area. They are holding events to reach
young people. They are also trying to ‘ conscientise’ serial makers.
They are planning seminars with advertisers and channels. They are
also targeting media training institutes.
Sazzad Hossain of the BCDJC outlined its work in supporting journalistic
freedom and ensuring protection of journalists from harassment. For
the 2001 parliamentary elections, they had held media colloquiums
for journalists in different parts of the country and produced a code
of conduct. They had also monitored media coverage of the campaign.
At the moment, there is no mechanism in Bangladesh for reflecting
viewers’ opinions. They plan to form a Media Consumers Club to reflect
the views of audiences. They are working on a project on gender issues
to ensure greater involvement of women in the media. They plan to
start a newsletter and to build a countrywide network.
Selvy Thiruchandran spoke about the work of the Sri Lanka Women’s
Education and Research Centre. They produce a journal called Vivodini.
They do media research. They promote interraction with producers.
They have developed a code of ethics for producers in collaboration
with the channels. Under the previous government, they planned but
did not conduct training programmes with managers. They hope to get
these going under the new government as a result of negotiations with
the new chairman of Rupavahini. Their work on television has included
a film about violence against women which was shown on Rupavahini.
In Sri Lanka’s ethnically divided society, which is neither homogeneous
nor necessarily progressive, there is a problem identifying what constitutes
‘civil society’. There are also important issues around ‘freedom of
speech’. How far should it go? There are professors of mathematics
and prominent lawyers talking racist language.
In Sri Lanka only 2% speak English. BBC and CNN don’t have a wide
impact. Her centre’s priority is to monitor local productions. There
is no real monitoring and analysis of ethnic or racist issues in the
local media. She is hoping to form a group in Sri Lanka to meet and
discuss these issues.
K.Bharati talked about AIDWA’s work monitoring serials in South India.
She referred to the most recent success among the mega serials - CHITI
- which had stopped the traffic. There was even a case of a woman
burning herself to death because her husband had switched off the
AIDWA had serious concerns about advertising. There was a high level
of viewership for the satellite channels in Tamilnadu but this wide
audience was not involved in the ideological debate. There were women
in South India who were buying a tin of Farex powdered milk and making
it last for three months.
AIDWA had done a survey in the districts about the serials. It believed
that the Film Censor Board should be more sensitive in awarding certificates.
AIDWA was concentrating on students and trying to improve their media
Dr Suresh of PCCL, Chennai, described the media as ‘our protection
against police harassment’. He said in many respects Tamil Nadu was
‘a police state’ and the media could play an important role in setting
the discourse and agenda and creating ‘a democratic landscape’. He
referred in particular to the role of the media in exposing the role
of the police in the Tirulnelveli massacre on 17 September 1997. The
Justice Mohan report had brought this out and provided a trigger for
a dialogue with the media.
Dr Suresh spoke of the need to ‘ unlearn’ certain attitudes towards
the media in order to create a new relationship with it - or as he
put ‘ to allow the self to meet the self of the producers’. At the
moment, the media was not playing as full a role as it could. For
example, caste conflict in Tamil Nadu had been ‘ so intense’ in recent
years but had gone largely unreported. An analysis of coverage of
the place of dalits in society revealed that they were largely featured
as victims not as protagonists. ‘How long to do you want to keep dalits
as victims?’ he asked.
He also spoke of the widening gulf in the language of different generations
and the role of the media in creating it. He had recently gone on
a long car journey with his 9 year old daughter and two 18 year old
law students. ‘There was no common language’. This was an urgent problem
that needed to be addressed.
Gargi Sen of Magic Lantern gave an account of the organisation’s work
in Uttar Pradesh since its inception in 1987. It began in the rights
field, working with dalits, taking videos round the villages, showing
films like Anand Patwardhan’s ‘ Bombay humara shehr hai’. It had then
moved on to critiquing satellite TV and the passivity which TV inculcates
and trying to create new spaces for other voices. It had sponsored
a number of travelling film festivals from the 1980s onwards which
also covered other states.
One problem in arguing for new spaces and new kinds of media is the
lack of data on the views of rural audiences. ‘Nobody has the figures’.
Dalits themselves are often misrepresented and misunderstood.
For the future, Magic Lantern has a three point strategy: :
1) Alternative Media Times - a way of critiquing the media, produced
in English but its views more widely disseminated through links with
the regional press.
2) Improving distribution - recognising that marketing is important.
This is an area which has proved very difficult to get right.
3) Media education. They are taking a campus initiative in Delhi -
the aim being to educate students on ‘ how to see TV’.
Chandita Mukherjee of the Comet Media Foundation began by highlighting
what she saw as a fundamental difficulty in carrying forward the kind
of work being done by organisations represented at the workshop -
the problem of finding members of the younger generation to take up
The Comet Media Foundation works largely in films but it has also
used low-cost media - for example slide shows with Anjali Monteiro.
She also commended the work of Avehi in Bombay which has been bringing
media makers and users together. Avehi has a ‘non-book’ library which
has been built up over twenty years and which contains maps, charts,
streetplays and other material. There are about 350 members of the
Recently, the Foundation have been promoting Development Resource
Fairs - known as Bal Vidya - which take up a theme and offer alternative
approaches to education. They offer workshops on alternative systems
of education, a film festival, book releases. They attract a good
audience (12,000 people attended the last one) and good media coverage.
Future fairs will take up health and environment themes.
Looking to strategy for the future, Chandita suggested that there
needs to be a shift of focus away from the state, given its diminishing
role, and towards the market, which is now the key mechanism. The
market can create new spaces and ‘we could make a greater difference
now’ she said. But it might involve a different approach. ‘If people
are being portrayed as consumer groups, we need to get into consumer
groups’. The media is also a product sensitive to market pressures.
Chandita spoke of a number of pressure groups which could influence
the new market. Apart from consumer cooperatives, gender activists
and human rights activists, there were parent-teacher associations
whichcould help to make a difference in schools. ‘Advocacy has to
be a part of schooling’ she said. It would also be useful to work
with producers on content ( many had tried to do this already but
more could be done), and with advertisers. Other avenues were local
cable channels participatory programmes and phone-in programmes. Work
also needed to be done, as Dr Suresh had suggested, on the projection
Lastly, she spoke of the larger context of programme viewing and cautioned
against paternalism. ‘Media beyond intentionality, beyond message’
needed to be explored, and the right vehicle created for generating
a response. ‘It is power relations - mediating the disadvantaged -
which is the essence of what we are addressing’ she concluded.
In opening the discussion, Urvashi Butalia highlighted a number of
priorities - among them the need for a constructive dialogue with
the channels, rather than overdeveloped criticism; human rights and
safeguards for journalists, especially in times of conflict; and the
need to move beyond monitoring on gender towards a sustainable and
replicable system where the levers of influence were less arbitrary.
Anita De spoke about the projection of disability in the media as
an add-on category in the rubric of gender and marginalisation. The
metaphor ‘ being a woman is a form of disability’ ignored the reality
of being disabled and should be avoided. She said that there were
‘multiple levels of disability’ affecting women and dalits as well
as the physically disabled. She regretted that a promising dialogue
over a three month period with the producers of Kaun Banega Crorepati,
on the involvement of people with disabilities, had been stopped without
producing results. Ananya Chatterjee, commenting on the suggestion
that more work could be done with Vjs and Djs, said she did not think
they had much say in what they wore or said. Simantini Dhruva spoke
about her work for Avehi on media education in schools in Mumbai over
the previous 12 years. Important concerns about caste, class and gender
were raised in schools. She took the story of the Ganesh images drinking
milk - which had been picked up and shown in London and relayed back
to India - as an example of the role of the media in promoting and
developing a story. She said that developing an awareness of this
process should be an integral, not an occasional, part of the schools’
Kanak Dixit said ‘we neglect radio at our peril’. Radio had the ability
to address community and locality more economically and more effectively
than television which was very expensive and for the most part focussed
on the nation state. There was a theory that a diversified radio network
would undermine the nation state, but in Nepal, which he described
as the weakest of the south Asian nation states, radio had been released
to the public without destroying the state. Local radio was cheap
and its staff were easily trained. It was not helpful to think of
South Asia just in terms of 7 nations - it was in fact a sub-continent
of 17 regions, all with distinct linguistic and other media needs.
For both television and radio, localisation was the answer to those
needs. Pre-recorded video programmes could have evolved into localised
programmes, but video was destroyed by satellite TV. Commenting on
the visual media, Kanak said he believed documentary had a key role
to play. The Himal-sponsored South Asia documentary film festival
and travelling film festivals were an atttempt to fill a gap. ‘The
public is there; the grammar is known to the public’. What was needed
was to increase the receptivity of the public to non-fiction.
Gargi Sen said: ‘ Don’t forget cable’. It had considerable potential
to serve community but had not developed this role. David Page pointed
out that the consolidation of cable services had restricted the space
for local cable channels which had earlier been created by local cable
operators. In conclusion Akhila Sivadas noted that TV channel executives
were averse both to the idea of doing any favours and to open public
1400-1530 How can the Commercial Media be responsive to the
public interest? A professional response.
Chairperson: David Page
D.K.Bose, Consultant, Development Communication, Ogilvey and Mather.
B.Narayanaswami, President , Indica Research.
Santosh Desia, Senior VP ( Strategic Planning), McCann-Erickson India
D.K.Bose asked if there were media that were not commercial? If the
commercial media do not serve the public interest, they will die,
he said. Looking at how media are funded, he said that ‘
subscription does not generally pay’, though the Readers Digest was
a prominent exception to this rule. Most media survive through advertising.
As to the channels, they want participation, he said, and they might
well be susceptible to media pressure to shoulder their corporate
responsibility to the community. In the USA, rankings are published
for corporate philanthropy and something similar could be attempted
B.Narayanaswamy spoke about media perceptions of public needs. The
media are ‘extremely responsive to consumer interests’, he said. Everything
was measured in terms of ‘eyeballs’ and ‘ eyeball hang time’. But
there was ‘ a disconnect between what media management thinks the
public wants and what they actually want’.
Narayanaswamy identified a number of trends and made some suggestions.
One trend was towards the global consolidation of the media into 5
huge companies and the development of sophisticated means of selling
things to the viewer. He maintained that the media could be more responsive
to civil society ‘ if they knew that they were unresponsive’. There
is a problem of communication with the media which needs to be addressed.
‘ You need to be on the same kick’, he said, if you are to make your
points successfully, and he mentioned three key areas for development:
research, strategy and spin.
Santosh Desai said that the media and its critics tended to live in
self-contained worlds: ‘ one world hides and the other berates’. The
challenge was to build a bridge between them. The question was: what
brings about change? His view was that India was going through a process
of ‘televisionisation’. This was not just about content. ‘TV changes
the consumer’, he said. Unlike the print world, which ‘hierarchises’
and hands down opinion, TV ‘individualises’, short circuiting that
hierarchy. TV is about the ‘democracy of desire’. It gives primacy
to individual desire and promotes the ‘self-confidence of consumption’.
Santosh Desai said that ‘ change is best accepted when you expand
tradition’, as in the ‘arranged love marriage’. ‘ It is possible to
co-opt anything if you salute the flag’, he said. He then gave a further
elaborate and amusing example: the Indianisation of the nightie. This
had been sold to Indian consumers as a new ‘freedom from shape’, a
development of the maxi-smock and not of the negligee. In the same
way traditional religious bhajans had been incorporated into film.
Modernity, he concluded, is a negotiated, expanded form of tradition.
In the same way, ‘ if democracy is to work with reality, it is important
to build on the existing pillars of society’. He said it was not useful
to pronounce judgement on this process; it was better to understand
the mechanics of reality and to strengthen the counterpoint between
modernity and tradition.
Gargi Sen said that the market was very often a dictator rather than
an instrument. It promoted a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and made one
take sides ‘ for’ or ‘against’. This was an area of widespread concern
and debate. She wondered if there might be common approaches to marketing
which called on ‘ our experience’ and ‘your expertise’. At present,
she said the marketing sector was not creative in this field. There
was a great variety of experience in India which was not tapped by
the market. Nupur Basu objected to the irrational use of women in
advertising products - for example why does an electric fan turn into
a woman? Anita De observed that advertising requires perfection and
ignores the fact that there are many different kinds of woman.
1600-1730 Concluding session
In the final session, participants gave their impressions of the workshop
and looked to possible future areas of collaboration. It was agreed
that it had been useful to bring together a range of organisations
with a common interest in engaging with the media. The workshop demonstrated
that though the new satellite media are an increasingly powerful influence
on the lives of South Asians as yet civil society has only been responding
to new media developments in a very piecemeal fashion. One positive
outcome of the workshop was a sense of future possibilities which
came from the special chemistry generated by mix of organisations
There was much interest in the work of CFAR and appreciation for its
contribution to the workshop. Several participants hoped there would
be opportunities to work more closely with CFAR in future. CFAR expressed
its own interest in extending its working relationships. It is already
attempting to doing some South Asia-wide research and hopes to work
more closely in future with some of the participants from other countries.
No formal resolutions were passed but it was agreed that an e-mail
server list would be set up to keep participants in touch with each