Lokniti-CSDS media survey: 82 percent of journalists think their employers support the BJP

The job is taking a toll on mental and physical health, and 75% of journalists are worried about losing their jobs.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi
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Nearly seven in 10 journalists experience an impact on their mental health as a result of their jobs. And 82 percent of journalists think their media organisations support the Bharatiya Janata Party.

These are some of the findings of a Lokniti-CSDS report, Media in India: Trends and Patterns, that was released today. The report, based on a survey of 206 journalists, is an attempt to “assess the overwhelming presence of media in our everyday lives” and its impact on consumers and journalists.

The journalists surveyed were from across mediums – TV, print and digital – and across states. Seventy-five percent of participants were male. Gender aside, other variables among participants included language, age, level of seniority, and media associations.

Image from the Lokniti-CSDS report.

Professional wellbeing and economy of work

Eighty-five percent of women respondents reported an effect on their mental health as a result of their jobs, as against 66 percent of men. Mid-level journalists at English news organisations and digital platforms reported “more effect” on their mental health than their counterparts.

Three out of four journalists said their jobs affected their physical health. According to the report: “Journalists who were young and journalists who belonged to the English language industry reported more cases of poor physical health. The cost of their professional overload also affected the relationship of the journalist with their families.”

After the Covid pandemic and global economic slowdown, the media industry was hit by layoffs. Forty-five percent of journalists said people in their organisations had been “asked to leave in order to cut the cost and maintain the economy of work”. This was echoed by 69 percent of middle-aged journalists and 77 percent of journalists in the English media industry.

Three-fourths of journalists in media organisations said they were worried about losing their current jobs – this worry was more prevalent among mid-level journalists.

Media and politics

On the news media’s intersection with politics, the study found that three-fourths of journalists surveyed “agreed that there is favouritism towards one party”. Eight-two percent of independent journalists believed media organisations “favour a particular party”.

When asked which party their media organisations supported, 82 percent said the BJP. This increased to 89 percent while including the opinions of independent journalists. Among English news organisations, four-fifths of journalists surveyed said “news media organisations generally favour BJP”.

Additionally, 16 percent of respondents said people in their organisations “were asked to quit the job due to political leanings”. More than half of the journalists surveyed were worried they would lose their jobs due to their political leanings. 

Eighty percent of journalists said the media covers Modi “too favourably” while 61 percent said opposition parties were covered “too unfavourably”. On the coverage of opposition parties, 71 percent of independent journalists surveyed were more likely to “perceive an unfavourable bias” compared to journalists with news organisations. 

According to the report, this means independent journalists “generally hold a stronger belief that the media portrays the Modi government in a favourable light and provides unfavourable coverage of opposition parties”.

In digital media, 69 percent of journalists saw the coverage of opposition parties as unfavourable – higher than print journalists (57 percent) and TV journalists (42 percent).

Image from the Lokniti-CSDS report.
Image from the Lokniti-CSDS report.

When asked if news media in India “unfairly targets the Muslim community”, 26 percent fully agreed while 26 percent fully disagreed.

Image from the Lokniti-CSDS report.

Social media, digital harassment 

Newslaundry has reported on how many news organisations today have social media policies – guidelines outlining the dos and don’ts for employees while expressing an opinion on social media platforms. Half of the journalists surveyed by Lokniti-CSDS said this was “fair”. Fifty-five percent of them said their organisations had some form of social media policy, as did seven out of 10 TV journalists.

But 30 percent of respondents said they “feel hesitant” about expressing their opinions on social media, though Hindi journalists were “relatively less frightened” about this. 

On the proliferation of fake news online, nearly three in four journalists expressed “serious concern” over receiving inaccurate information on social media. Over two-thirds of the total journalists surveyed admitted to being “very concerned about getting misled by false or inaccurate information posted on social media platforms or the internet”.

Social media trends also influence news media content to an extent, according to two-thirds of TV journalists. Seven in 10 journalists called this “worrying”.

Lokniti-CSDS also asked respondents how many times they had been abused, threatened, harassed, bullied or trolled online for something they’d posted or commented on social media. Sixty-four percent of respondents said they’d been harassed at least once.

The report’s findings suggest digital journalists are more likely to encounter harassment on social media: 78 percent of digital journalists experienced harassment for their online posts in the past year. The figure is 55 percent for TV journalists and 54 percent for print journalists.

More than half of women respondents said they felt “extremely unsafe about their privacy on Twitter and Facebook”. They also felt more unsafe than their male counterparts while using WhatsApp.

Image from the Lokniti-CSDS report.

Press freedom, representation, institutional control

On the freedom of the press, 72 percent of respondents said news channels are “less free to do their jobs” now. These concerns were higher among journalists working in English media as compared to Hindi media. Fifty-five percent of print journalists and 36 percent of digital journalists felt “less free to do their job properly”.

Importantly, 71 percent of independent journalists told Lokniti-CSDS that newspapers today are “less free to do their job properly”.

Almost three in five journalists said that regional news media is doing a better job than the national media. 

One-third of respondents said they’d experienced gender-related discrimination at work with women being “more prone” to it. Forty-five percent said they had experienced discrimination by colleagues due to their political opinions. 

The report indicated that journalism as a profession “no longer holds the respect and reputation it did before”. Over a quarter of respondents were “somewhat dissatisfied” with standards of journalism in news organisations today while 13 percent were “fully dissatisfied”. The report concluded that “overall”, journalists felt the quality of news coverage had “deteriorated” for news channels and newspapers, but comparatively improved for news websites.

Also, 43 percent of the surveyed journalists said they were “very pessimistic about the future independence of news channels”. They were less pessimistic about newspapers (22 percent) and digital media (16 percent).

Over half of journalists “contemplated quitting their news media jobs altogether” and pursuing different careers. But many journalists said they couldn’t leave their current jobs due to financial constraints. More than half of respondents cited “financial reasons or loan obligations, or because they did not have another job lined up”. 

But there’s a notable discrepancy between English language journalists and their Hindi counterparts. A “significant majority” of English journalists said they had thought about quitting their jobs in the last two years, suggesting they “may face unique challenges and pressures within the industry”.

The report concluded that there is a “deep-rooted dissatisfaction with the profession”. It said media organisations must prioritise the well-being of their employees with support systems like employee assistance programmes, mental health resources and professional development opportunities, as well as encouraging a work-life balance.

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