Ground Report | New Delhi: Dalit Adivasis in the Mainstream Media; Three out of four anchors of flagship debates are from higher castes. Neither is Dalit, Adivasi, or OBC. Only 10 of the 972 articles that appear on the covers of the 12 magazines deal with caste-related issues. No more than 5% of all articles in English newspapers are written by Dalits and Adivasis.
The report “Who Tells Our Stories Matters: Representing Marginalized Caste Groups in Newsrooms in India”, the report is an initiative of The Media Rumble in partnership with Oxfam India.
Dalit Adivasis in the Mainstream Media
“The report starkly reaffirms that marginalized groups are absent in the media, particularly in leadership positions that determine who gets the space. Even the stories written about those affected by discrimination are from privileged people and from higher castes. No honest collective efforts have been made to include more voices and create equitable representation in newsrooms. It is disheartening to see the media, which is one of the most recognized institutions of democracy, fail Dalits, Adivasis, and other marginalized groups. “
“This report is important to those who work and work with the media as it presents them with an opportunity to deliberate on a way forward that upholds constitutional guarantees of equality and fraternity,” said Amitabh Behar, Executive Director of Oxfam India.
The report uses several methods: surveys, signature counting, and triangulation with publicly available government sources to identify the castes of journalists, presenters, writers, editors, and panelists. Six English and seven Hindi-language newspapers, flagship talk shows on 14 television channels, 11 digital media outlets, and 12 magazines were examined to collect caste details for the period October 2018 to Match 2019. More than 65,000 news articles and discussions across all publications. provide a quantitative picture of which groups get to speak on various topics and to what extent.
The report further said “Of the 121 newsroom leadership positions – editor-in-chief, managing editor, executive editor, bureau chief, input/output editor – across the newspapers, TV news channels, news websites, and magazines under study, 106 are occupied by upper castes, five by other backward classes and six by people from minority communities. The case of four individuals could not be identified.”
The findings were stunning:
- Three out of every four anchors (among a total of 40 anchors in Hindi channels and 47 in English channels) of debates are upper caste. Not one is Dalit, Adivasi, or OBC.
- For over 70% of their primetime debate shows, news channels draw the majority of the panellists from the upper castes.
- No more than 5% of all articles in English newspapers are written by Dalits and Adivasis. Hindi newspapers fare slightly better at around 10%.
- Around 72% of bylined articles on news websites are written by people from the upper castes.
- Only 10 of the 972 articles featuring on the cover pages of the 12 magazines under study are about issues related to caste.
The study choose six English and seven Hindi Newspapers, The Economic Times, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Telegraph, The Times of India, Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala, Navbharat Times, Rajasthan Patrika, Prabhat Khabar, Punjab Kesari, and Hindustan were held by upper caste individuals, with no representation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, or religious minorities.
According to the report, media professionals from marginalized caste groups do not occupy leadership positions in the six English newspapers and seven Hindi newspapers surveyed for the study.
After reading over 16,000 articles carried by English newspapers between October 2018 and March 2019, the study found that excluding The Hindu, more than 60 percent of the articles were written by upper-caste writers. But there is a caveat: “Hindu seems to be bucking this trend because we were unable to determine the castes of about 26 percent of its authors.”
The researchers classified these 16,000 articles into 11 categories, including politics, public life, sports, the state, and the economy. They found that in all these categories, 55-65 percent of the articles were written by upper-caste writers.
However, this is unlikely to work without widespread social change. “Newsrooms are not isolated from society. You see in them what you see in the outside world,” Parkhe said. What he suggested instead is a different form of affirmative action. “There are many people who do not think about caste, religion or such matters while going to the newsroom. Unfortunately, they do not think of stepping up to bring about change in the organizations or the society at large. If such people take a more active role, we will see real change.”
Better represented in leadership positions
The study examined 12 magazines, ten in English—Business Today, The Caravan, Femina, Frontline, India Today, Organizer, Outlook, Sarita, Sportstar, and Tehelka, and two in Hindi—India Today and Outlook. OBC communities were better represented in leadership positions than the rest of the media.
Upper caste individuals accounted for about 73 percent of leadership positions, and the OBC composition was 13.6 percent. However, the representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes remained absent in the magazines as well. Furthermore, the report noted that out of 972 articles featured on the cover pages of the 12 journals under study, only ten were about caste-related issues.
The report suggests an urgent need to take proactive steps, including affirmative action, to diversify newsrooms in line with the country’s social and demographic characteristics. To this end, systems to encourage inclusion must be put in place, and concerted efforts made to train and hire journalists from across the social spectrum. ((Dalit Adivasis in the Mainstream Media)
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