Aggressive masculinity rampant in TV news, male anchors demean guests more: Study

The study was conducted by monitoring 185 news and talk shows across 31 television channels in 12 languages between September 19, 2021 and September 25, 2021.
Collage of news anchors Rahul Shivshankar and Arnab Goswami
Collage of news anchors Rahul Shivshankar and Arnab Goswami
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Panels moderated by male anchors in news shows exhibited more aggressive and masculinist behavior than those moderated by women, revealed a study conducted by the Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad. Most male anchors (50.33%) were also found to demean or undermine guests and sources, whereas less than a third of female anchors (30.34%) resorted to this, the study said. Aggression was observed in more than 50% of all news shows that were sampled, and it increased to 85% for talk shows. The study was conducted in association with Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI).

The study was conducted by monitoring 185 news and talk shows across 31 television channels in 12 languages between September 19, 2021 and September 25, 2021. Titled “Aggressive Masculinity in Journalistic Performance and Social Media Discourse”, the study focused on three aspects: aggression/anger, dominance and sexism. Tone of voice was the most common expression of aggression (76.8%), while elements that increased stridency such as sound and visual effects occurred frequently (60%). Panels moderated by male anchors revealed relatively more aggressive masculinist behavior (54.55%) on several metrics than those moderated by female anchors (12.07%).

Aggression was mostly found in ​​English media at 24.72%, followed by Gujarati media at 15.93%, which was the third most monitored language in the research. For the variable of ‘dominance’, Hindi media (making up 10% of the samples) took the lead with 34.86%. Bengali media appeared to have fewer elements of dominance. While Tamil media made up only 5% (from two channels: Polimer News and News18 Tamil) of the total samples examined in the study, it had the maximum share of ‘highly present’ for the variable of ‘sexism’ at 38.70%.

The volunteers used a scale of impressions of aggression as highly present, somewhat present, minimally present, and absent, expressed through seven aspects: body language, words, tone of voice, use of visuals and graphic elements, sound effects, and interpersonal dynamics.  Combining the scores for ‘highly present’, ‘somewhat present’, and ‘minimally present’, the study found that aggressive behaviours occurred 63% to 76% of the time across the 185 episodes analysed. 

Aggression against minority communities

The volunteers from NWMI also noted the presence of aggressively worded hashtags such as #StopHinduphobia, terms such as “gaddar” (traitor) for people from minority communities or political opponents, and/or descriptions such as “behaved like a man” to connote approval of a news subject. 

Overall, women anchors in the sample displayed signs of aggression and anger less often than the male anchors. However, this difference varied across indicators. 

Aggressive interpersonal dynamics (understood in the form of interruptions, derision, etc.) had the widest gender gap — female anchors displayed such behaviours 31.46% of the time, compared to 56.25% for male anchors. A substantial difference was also found in aggressive word usage (58.43% by women and 71.88% by men). Notably, both women (75.28%) and men (78.13%) were found to employ an aggressive tone of voice in a comparably high proportion of instances, the study said.

Domineering over guests

When it came to dominating the news show, both male and female anchors were found to use a domineering tone of voice in their delivery in a large number of instances (male: 81.25%, female: 74.16%). The biggest recorded disparity between men and women’s performances of dominance was with respect to interpersonal dynamics: male anchors were found to demean or otherwise undermine their guests/sources in 58.33% of the observed instances, whereas the same behaviour was observed in female anchors 30.34% of the time. Dominance was also measured using the categories of ‘highly present’, ‘somewhat present’ and ‘minimally present’ which were combined into a single category. 

Dominance was recorded by observing  the journalist’s confrontation over dialogue (frequent interruptions, for example), competition rather than collaboration/cooperation, denial of agency to women/queer persons, exhibition of control/ownership over female/queer bodies, assertion as custodians of a certain “culture”, interpersonal dynamics that disparage/diminish invited guests/sources, evidence of identity-based prejudices leading to discrimination based on caste, tribe, religion and/or other identities.

Interestingly, women journalists displayed relatively more dominance (17%) when it came to discussing the issue of caste-based violence, compared to men journalists (16%). 

Sexism propagated by both men and women anchors

There was no notable difference between male and female hosts/anchors with respect to sexist behaviours. However, the use of dismissive language towards women or other genders was found to be slightly higher in the case of male anchors than women anchors (27.66% and 19.54% respectively), the study found.

Sexism was measured by observing the  patronising, dismissive or aggressive behaviour towards women and femininity, presence of obvious misogyny and queerphobia, objectification/commodification of women, distrust/hatred/ignorance of nonheteronormative persons. 

The following channels were monitored for the study: ​​ABP Ananda (Bangla), ABP Asmita (Gujarati), ABP Majha (Marathi), ABP News (Hindi), Asianet (Kannada), Asianet (Malayalam) CNN-News 18 (English), DD India (English), DD Malayalam (Malayalam), DY365 (Assamese), Kanak TV (Odia), Mathrubhumi (Malayalam), ND 24x7 (Assamese), NDTV Hindi (Hindi), News 18 Bangla (Bangla), News 18 Gujarati (Gujarati), News 18 (Tamil), Odisha TV (Odia), Pratidin Time (Assamese), Public TV (Kannada), PTC (Punjabi), Polimer News (Tamil), Republic (English), Saam TV (Marathi), Times Now (English), TV 9 (Gujarati), TV 9 (Bangla), V6 News (Telugu), WION (English), Zee 24 Ghanta (Bangla), and Zee Hindustan (Hindi).


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