Newsrooms in Indian media are not diverse at all, with 106 out of 121 newsroom leadership positions across newspapers, channels, news websites and magazines occupied by Brahmin-Savarnas, according to a report by Oxfam India and the Media Rumble team on the representation of marginalised caste groups in Indian newsrooms. Only five newsroom leadership positions are occupied by people from the Other Backward Communities and six by people from minority communities.
The report studied six English and seven Hindi newspapers, debate shows on 14 channels, 11 digital news outlets and 12 magazines between October 2018 to March 2019.
‚ÄúThis report is important for those working in and working with the media as it presents an opportunity before them to deliberate a way forward that upholds the constitutional guarantees of equality and fraternity,‚ÄĚ said Amitabh Behar, Chief Executive Officer, Oxfam India.
Among the English news channels that were surveyed ‚ÄĒ CNN-News 18, India Today, Mirror Now, NDTV 24x7, Rajya Sabha TV, Republic TV and Times Now ‚ÄĒ 89% of leadership positions are held by Brahmin-Savarna journalists. None are held by people from the SC, ST or OBC communities. The report states that 60-76% of the top decile of panellists by the number of appearances were Brahmin-Savarna people. Two of the surveyed channels, India Today and Times Now, had only nearly 10% of their panellists from the SC, ST and OBC communities.
‚ÄúRegardless of the topic being discussed, the Scheduled Tribes were barely represented. Members of marginalised caste groups, in fact, were shut out of debates on caste issues,‚ÄĚ the report states.
Rajya Sabha TV had the highest number of appearances and panellists who were Brahmin-Savarna, at a little over 70%.
When it came to debating caste issues, 80.2% of the panellists were Brahmin-Savarna on Rajya Sabha TV, as opposed to 8.5% SC, 2.2% SC and 9.1% OBC panellists. NDTV came a close second, with 78.3% of the panelists being Brahmin-Savarna, 10.8% SC, 0.4% ST and 10.4% OBC.
Hindi news channels fared even worse, with 100% of leadership positions being occupied by Brahmin-Savarna and 80.5% of anchors being Brahmin-Savarna. Here too, Rajya Sabha TV performed the worst, with 89.1% of panellists in the majority of the debates being Brahmin-Savarna.
91.7% of newsroom leadership positions are held by people from Brahmin-Savarna community, among the papers studied ‚ÄĒ The Economic Times, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Telegraph and The Times of India.
‚ÄúIn each of these newspapers, except The Hindu, over 60% of the articles were by dominant-caste writers. The Hindu seems to be bucking the trend because we were unable to determine the castes of nearly 26% of its writers. Across the seven newspapers, we were unable to assign a caste to nearly a fifth of the writers,‚ÄĚ the report said.
According to the study, 72% of articles on the business page and 62% of articles on the newspaper front page were by Brahmin-Savarna writers. The Indian Express had the most number of articles on caste issues, accounting for 60%. The Economic Times had the most number of Brahmin-Savarna writers at 76.6% belonging to the general category, and just 1.7% SC, 0.4% ST and 1.3% OBC writers.
When it came to writing on caste issues, all of the writers in the Economic Times and the Times of India were Brahmin-Savarna. Both the Hindu and the Hindustan Times scored low on this parameter but also had a large chunk of people whose caste had not been identified.
When it came to Hindi newspapers, 87.5% of leadership positions are held by Brahmin-Savarna persons. ‚ÄúNot one Dalit, Adivasi or OBC journalist held a leadership position across the seven Hindi newspapers chosen for this study ‚Äď Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala, Navbharat Times, Rajasthan Patrika, Prabhat Khabar, Punjab Kesari, and Hindustan,‚ÄĚ the report stated.
When it came to writing on caste issues, 100% of writers in Amar Ujala were from the SC community as opposed to Rajasthan Patrika, which had 89.6% Brahmin-Savarna writers.
No more than 5% of all articles in English newspapers are written by Dalits and Adivasis. Hindi newspapers fare slightly better at around 10%.
Digital news outlets:
11 news websites (including TNM) were surveyed ‚ÄĒ Firstpost, Newslaundry, Scroll.in, Swarajya, The Ken, The News Minute, The Print, The Quint, The
Wire, Newslaundry (Hindi) and Satyagraha in Hindi. The trend of leadership positions continued, with 84.2% being held by Brahmin-Savarna caste persons.
‚ÄúIn absolute terms, digital media carried the highest number of articles by non-upper caste contributors. That, however, was because of the sheer volume of the content. In relative terms, the news websites fared no better than newspapers or TV news channels,‚ÄĚ the report said.
Looking at the top decile of writers by the number of articles published, 100% of the articles in the Ken, Newslaundry (Hindi) and Satyagraha were from persons who are Brahmin-Savarna. Among the nine English websites, the Print saw the most number of articles on caste issues written by Brahmin-Savarna writers at 68.9%, followed by the Wire at 63%.
Around 72% of bylined articles on news websites are written by Brahmin-Savarna people.
Business Today, Caravan, Femina, Frontline, India Today, India Today (Hindi), Organiser, Outlook, Outlook (Hindi), Sarita, Sportstar, and Tehelka were surveyed, and 72.7% of positions were held by Brahmin-Savarna persons.
With respect to the top decile of writers by the number of articles published, 100% of articles published on Tehelka were by Brahmin-Savarna writers, and the lowest was Organiser at 40.6%. The caste of 20% could not be determined at Organiser.
67.1% Brahmin-Savarna, 17.9% SC and 25% OBC writers wrote on caste issues in the Caravan. 99.5% of writers on India Today (Hindi) who wrote on caste issues are Brahmin-Savarna writers.
Only 10 of the 972 articles featuring on the cover pages of the 12 magazines under study are about issues related to caste.
‚ÄúThis means that for the mainstream media and digital portals analysed in this report, the vast majority of the country‚Äôs population is a ‚Äėsubject‚Äô of news created by upper caste individuals and groups, rather than a news creator or messenger,‚ÄĚ the report states.