Considering that the electronic media plays a significant role
in exposing these incidents - and is, in fact, most powerful in
the formulation of public opinion, the Centre for Advocacy and Research
(CFAR) conducted an audience feedback study on the coverage of the
recent rape incidents on TV. The study, called TELEVISION COVERAGE
OF RAPE IN DELHI: SHARING THE VIEWERS’ PERSPECTIVE, conducted during
the second and third week of October was released recently.
The study was based on the two recent rape cases: On 14 October,
a 35-year-old Swiss diplomat was abducted from the car park outside
Siri Fort auditorium, Delhi, driven around in her own vehicle and
raped. A week before that, four bodyguards of the President raped
a 17-year-old girl in the Buddha Jayanti Park.
These two cases have particularly highlighted the fact that conditions
for women in the country's capital have deteriorated in the past
few months. The survey sought out the opinions and the expectations
of people from the media on the way it covered the recent rape incidents.
According to a CFAR release, the audience feedback study focussed
on three objectives:
Quality of coverage - The survey tried to elicit the viewer's
opinion on the quality of coverage. It checked how far the viewers
thought the media was able to influence public opinion on such social
Usefulness of coverage - The survey tried to find out what
people thought were examples of useful, inclusive and gratuitous
coverage by the media. Or whether they thought it was inadequate
Pro-active coverage: It tried to find out if viewers thought
media could play a more pro-active role in bringing into focus similar
cases of violence against society.
Are channels up to mark?
The survey was conducted to find the opinion and the trust the
common man has on the media today. Most viewers questioned, the
release says, were familiar with almost all news channels like Star
News, NDTV India, Aaj Tak, NDTV 24x7 and Sahara. It was also revealed
that most students were hooked on to NDTV 24x7 while the less privileged
preferred watching Aaj Tak.
The first most important question the survey placed before the
people was if the recent rape coverage was satisfactory in terms
of the importance media gave to the issue and its quality.
A small portion of the viewers thought the media was adequately
playing the role of a watchdog. Another segment of viewers, especially
the students, opined that the coverage of rape was useful in creating
awareness among different sections of the society. A student of
Delhi University, Nabila Hamid, was quoted in the release as saying,
"I believe that by exposing what is wrong in the society the
media acquaints us with what our lawmakers and law executors are
Another Delhi University student Sapana Shakya was quoted as saying,
"It is very shocking. I am gripped with a sense of insecurity.
The first question that comes to mind is that if army men rape women,
then who can we turn to for security?" She gives a thumbs up
to the media for its coverage. "I think they have attached
adequate importance to the issue but at the same time they are also
sensationalizing it a little bit," Shakya says
While viewers approved of the importance the media has given to
the rape incidents, they resented the media's attitude of not awarding
equal coverage to all sections of society. They accuse it of a class
bias. They opined that slum dwellers say that rape is a routine
phenomenon in their area but the media does not report it.
Viewers also said that the media has failed to do justice to the
cause of Indian women by stereotyping them as a vulnerable section
of the civil society. Respondents from the middle class accused
the media of stressing the weaker side of women by making them the
object of news items only when they are victimized.
The survey also noted that the more horrifying the situation is,
the greater is the feeling amongst people that the media has done
its bit to sensationalize it. The media has also been accused of
adopting an opinionated style of reporting, which deprives the story
of its objectivity.
Are criminals inspired by TV fiction
The CFAR survey also acknowledged people's opinion on television
soaps and uncovered that most women felt that many of the perpetrators
of violence against women get ideas from TV soaps.
A senior citizen Usha Gupta is quoted in the release as saying,
"They should stop showing so much violence and rape in the
daily soaps. At least 10-20 per cent of such crimes are affected
by such serials." Gupta also says, "News does not intimidate
us but serials do. This is because, news tells us nothing but the
truth and it is not dramatized."
As for cinema, viewers strongly believe that the media should stop
glamorizing nudity of women as it encourages rapists.
Is media promoting social security?
Another question the survey asked was if people thought that
media can play a pro-active role in promoting social security.
It was revealed that people thought the media should aim at creating
awareness amongst people about the various tools of self-defense
which are available to them.
A senior citizen was quoted as saying, "Though the media is
right in giving the wide coverage it does to issues like rape, it
should also try and propagate that the social security of elderly
people is not being taken care of by the government."
Also the viewers said that they would like the media to play a
pro-active role in celebrating the courage of victims who dare to
challenge the culprits in full public glare. They said that the
media should make an example of such people, through adequate coverage.
Media must pressurise law-keepers
People also said, the media should put pressure on the executive
and the judiciary for delivering quick justice to the victims.
People thought that uniformed men dare to commit rapes because
of their lack of respect for the dignity of women, and most importantly,
their confidence that they won't be punished or hanged by the courts.
Respondents gave some ideas on the kind of media coverage that
will contribute towards addressing the social security problems
at their roots. They stressed on investigation and follow-ups as
the only way to coax the law to join in.
Viewers and their habits
The company release stated that a group of 56 respondents representing
a cross section of men and women participated in the exercise. The
respondents were between the ages 20-60+. Feedback was sought from
people who were involved in a range of activities such as students,
professionals, housewives, retired people and people from less privileged
Viewers who were questioned included 24 senior citizens, 15 middle-class
housewives, 10 students and 7 women from under privileged section.
To sum up, the survey revealed, while the viewers - across all
sections - do trust the media and the quality of coverage, they
also recognise sensationalism of news and expect the media to be
more objective. They want the media to shrug off its occasional
bias, its class discriminations and present news in a fair and responsible
way. They also want the media to get pro-active in punishing criminals.