By Syed Ali Mujtaba
Recently, Oxfam India released a report titled “Who Tells Our Stories Matters: Representation of Marginalised Caste Groups in Indian Media.” It says; 90% of leadership positions in Indian media are occupied by Upper Caste groups with not even a single Dalit or Adivasi heading Indian mainstream media.
Exactly the same findings were made by the social activist and psephologist, Yogendra Yadav in 2006 who did a similar survey about the social profile of the national media professionals in India.
Yadav recalls the days of the Mandal II agitation in 2006 when he did this survey; “It was more a rudimentary headcount than a scientific survey but it confirmed our worst suspicions about caste, gender, and religion across Indian media.”
“We drew up a list of 40 national media outlets (Hindi and English TV channels and newspapers) and requested someone there to draw a list of their top 10 editor-level decision-makers. Then we recorded information on the gender, religion, and caste against each name. We had shortlisted 400 persons but were able to collect information on 315 only” he recalls.
Our findings were; “A staggering 88 percent of this elite list were upper-caste Hindus, a social group that cannot possibly exceed 20 percent of India’s population. Brahmins alone, no more than 2-3 percent of the population, occupied 49 percent of positions. Not even a single person in this list turned out to be from Dalit or Adivasi background. More relevant to the case in point, the OBCs, whose population is estimated to be around 45 percent, was merely 4 percent among the top media professionals. Women accounted for only 16 percent.
Yadav says that “the representation of the 14 percent Muslims was only 3 percent in the national media. He adds that brazen anti-minority headlines get routinely generated in media and the communal flare-up gets 9 times more coverage than caste conflict in India.”
Yadav says what we summarized in 2006 that India’s ‘national’ media lacks social diversity; it does not reflect the country’s social profile comes true with findings of the Oxfam report on media in India. The big picture that remains the same even after 15 years is that 20 percent of the country gets 80 percent voice in the media and the remaining 80 percent is limited to 20 percent media space.
Yogendra Yadav’s writeup “Hindu upper-caste Indian media is a lot like White-dominated South Africa” can be accessed in The Print, October 27, 2022.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org