Environmental issues get low priority on news channels

NEW DELHI, JULY 24. The Capital's pollution levels might ring alarm bells for citizens, but reporting on environment issues tends to take a backseat and figures even lower on the scale than reports on cinema over television news channels.

According to an ongoing media monitoring of five TV news channels at the Media Lab of the Centre for Media Studies (CMS), reports on environment issues are lesser than even reporting on cinema. Continuing for close to a year now -- September 2003 to July 2004 -- the monitoring of five news channels reveals that maximum coverage is given to national politics at 35 per cent while environment gets a mere one per cent. Interestingly, reports on art and culture -- which include exhibitions and fashion -- figure at 6 per cent.

Among the channels being monitored at the CMS Media Lab are Sahara Samay, Aaj Tak, NDTV India, Star News and Zee News. "We only concentrated on the Hindi news channels because Hindi channels have a wider reach than the English ones. And we have only concentrated on prime time viewing from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. everyday. We have identified various areas and are looking at the number of reports that are appearing on them everyday,'' said the CMS coordinator, V.V. Sundar.

The monitoring so far has revealed that the number of reports on environment and related issues falls far behind other subjects. While reports on national politics rank the highest at 35 per cent, second in running are reports on sports at 12 per cent. Reports on crime rate 7 per cent, on arts and culture 6 per cent and cinema 2 per cent. At the lowest rung is environment at 1 per cent.

"We are looking at environment issues that cover any kind of pollution, environment degradation and natural calamities. What we have noticed in the past few months during the monitoring is that there is more event-based reporting. If there is some issue, then it would become news. For instance, reports related to environment issues picked up during the recent instances of leopard strikes in Mumbai. Also, there are relatively few instances when issues are picked up. And there are barely any follow-ups,'' said Mr. Sundar.

While the monitoring for the moment has been mostly quantitative, the CMS Media Lab is looking at making it more qualitative. "We would like to go into more in-depth analysis. We want to not only analyse how many reports on environment appear but also how long the news story is. And also the issues that are picked up by the channels,'' said the director of CMS Media Lab, Naveen Surapaneni.

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