Saturday, June 03, 2006

Caste and Indian Media

Caste matters in the Indian media, Siddharth Varadarajan reports in The Hindu.
If television and newspaper coverage of the anti-reservation agitation was indulgent and one-sided, the lack of diversity in the newsroom is surely a major culprit.
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how it contrasts with the extraordinary indulgence the national media showed the nearly month-long anti-reservation agitation of doctors and medical students at AIIMS and other colleges. Despite the 24x7 presence of TV cameras, the daily protests in favour of reservation by AIIMS doctors and staff under the banner of `Medicos Forum for Equal Opportunities' were virtually blacked out.
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would the media's coverage have been more balanced had there been a greater degree of caste diversity in the newsroom and editorial boards of our newspapers and channels? Put another way, in egging the forward caste students on to oppose any extension of reservation, were forward caste editors and reporters reflecting their own personal impatience with the idea of affirmative action? Was the media coverage, then, a display of trade unionism by the privileged?
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There are no official or industry statistics but every journalist is aware of the extent to which forward castes dominate the media. When B.N. Uniyal surveyed the scene in 1996, he found not a single Dalit accredited journalist in Delhi. Today, the position is unlikely to be much better. At a recent meeting of Journalists for Democracy, it was reported that an informal survey had found that the number of accredited North Indian OBC journalists in Delhi was under 10.
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In an ideal world where professionalism is paramount, the caste or religious affiliation of a journalist should not matter. But journalism that has little or no space for the majority of citizens is bound to end up missing out on the complexity of the society it seeks to cover. Story ideas will not be taken up, or if taken up then covered only from a particular perspective.

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