Diversity in media still lacks diversity

As my thesis includes using the theory of Intersectionality, I came across this reading of how India media covers rape of women. Titled  “Covering Rape in Shame Culture: Studying Journalism Ethics in India’s New Television News Media” shows how rape is covered in Indian media.

With 300 plus channels coupled with mobile technology have made news more accessible than ever t people. India also has a poor track of women rights with different forms of violence against them very common. The author sees how the cultural bias against women comes into play when media decides what to show. Then the author makes a further argument, that within the coverage of women issues specifically rape, there is intersection of gender with caste, race and class. The caste system is still dominant in India, being part of Hindu religion. The lowest of the caste, the dalits have had numerous instances of violence perpetrated against them. Similarly, people from Northeast region in India are culturally very different and Christianity is the dominant religion there. People of this ethnicity also face discrimination within the Indian system. All the to Northwest is the Kashmir valley, which is a disputed region and has a high military presence. Numerous human rights violation occur there to the local Muslim population. The author brought up these three examples to show who are the most neglected groups in society and are the bottom of the social status. Any story about them suffering is not portrayed in media because of the low status.

To intersect these groups with gender, rape becomes more of a taboo topic. When these two identity forms intersect, there is a “pro-affluent bias” in reporting of sexual violence. Rape only matters when the victim belongs to English speaking, urban, upper-caste and at least middle class woman with some white-collar job.

The case that author chose was the gang rape in Delhi in December 2012 of a student travelling on bus. The rape incident led to protests and for the first time the media covered it extensively.

The author used 38 face to face interviews of television based news journalists. The interviews were conducted for three weeks in Delhi following the Delhi rape case. 27 journalists were men and 11 were women. The author concluded from these interviews that there is a lack of ethics in the Indian newsroom when the news covered depends on what will sell and what wouldn’t. And even using the widely covered Delhi gang rape case, it was difficult to predict whether ethics of reporting would be observed in cases of sexual violence.

Missing ethics just don’t refer to the shame culture but also to the highlight the absence of inclusiveness and human dignity. The author states these traits are necessary for showing how humans are all interconnected. Journalists’ response shows that Indian media ignores the plight of lower castes and rapes of poor. And these communities stay ignored even within favorite topics of cricket. The media is missing recognition of human dignity. In short the media market acts entirely as a consumer product. It shows only that what it appeals to their perceived consumers-the urban middle class audience.

The author makes a very strong point of inclusiveness and intersectionality in Indian media. This is an important concept as it shows that while talks of diversity in media representations are becoming more common, within that diversity their is an intersectionality that needs to be addressed. Rape coverage has started happening in Indian media but that doesn’t point to media becoming more diverse- it is still ignoring those it deems not newsworthy enough.