Shortly after it dawned on all and sundry that what was initially thought of as only a gang war, was in fact a concerted attack by terrorists on the night of November 26, 2008, all eyes of the nation, and the world, were trained on Mumbai. The coverage of the attacks was to become a watershed in India's television history. But hardly had the first night wore on, signs of criticism of the coverage began surfacing. Over Facebook status messages, through SMSs, and subsequently through blogs and other outlets. Even as National Security Guard (NSG) commandos fought a pitched battle with the terrorists, and television cameras and journalists kept viewers updated all through, coverage itself became news. For all the wrong reasons, one might argue.
Going by the outrage expressed by critics through newspaper columns and blogs, among others, Newswatch decided to carry out a survey on what people thought of the reportage issue. The survey was conducted primarily over a web-based interface from December 3-6. The response was overwhelming. In all, 9,906 responses were selected for the analysis.
Some highlights of the survey results:
- 97 per cent said the high point was round-the-clock, extensive, coverage
- 74 per cent felt that the reportage-presentation was theatrical
- 73 per cent thought TV channels are goading the Indian government to go to war with Pakistan
- Arup Ghosh and Shireen of NewsX were thought to be the most cool/best anchors/reporters
- Barkha Dutt of NDTV was thought to be the most theatrical/worst anchors/reporters
- More than half said Shobhaa Dé was one celebrity who did not deserve to be on TV
- In most segments, DD News was seen to be the least sensational.
Size: 449 KB
[For download link, please scroll down.]
There are, nevertheless, limitations with this survey. Firstly, there was no sample identification or selection (see page 3 for the methodology). Secondly, since this was an online survey the results would also mean the opinion gathered was that of India's Internet users only, and not that of the people as a whole. The survey results, unfortunately, leave out rural India from its ambit. In that sense, this survey is as elitist as the coverage of the attacks was made out to be by most detractors.
This survey is based on people's perception of the television coverage—it is not a content analysis project, technically.
In all, 16 questions dealt with perceived negative aspects of the coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks by news and business channels. In all, 21 English and Hindi channels were shortlisted for assessment. Non-English/Hindi channels had to be left out for logistical reasons. Respondents were asked to rate each of these 21 channels on a scale of 1 to 5, in an increasing order of perceived negativity. These ratings were subsequently used to arrive at a weighted mean on a scale of 100. No demographic details were collected from the respondents. In other words, it is not possible, for instance, to say if 57 per cent men in the age group of 22-29 in North India believed that Sahara Samay was theatrical in its reportage/presentation.
This survey is also not about ranking channels. For example, the Table 1 results on page 2 do not mean that all respondents thought that Zee News was the most speculative in its reportage. It means that of those who watched Zee News, 86 per cent thought that the channel's coverage was speculative.
This report also carries excerpts from relevant critical articles that appeared in newspapers, opinions of some of the survey respondents, and the response of Barkha Dutt (Group Editor- English News, NDTV) to the criticism of the coverage.
To download the report, click on the link below.