State of Indian media: 50% news shows exhibit aggressive behaviour, finds report

The report uses dimensions of dominance, and sexism, to analyze what it calls “the present toxic and hegemonic masculinity in news media.” | Photo: Pexels

Tone of voice was found to be the most common expression of aggression apart from sound and visual effects

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NEW DELHI — Aggression was observed in more than 50% of 185 news shows in India, a media monitoring report by the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), has revealed. 

The findings are based on the monitoring of 185 news and talk shows across 31 television channels in 12 languages between September 19-25, 2021.

A media monitoring report named Staging Aggressive Masculinity released on January 31 by NWMI as part of a larger collaboration with the Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, Delhi, has revealed how the hegemonic and toxic masculinities are performed in news media, especially on television in India.

The report revealed that the tone of voice was found to be the most common expression of aggression.

“Toxic masculinity combined with right-wing, hyper-nationalist, majoritarian ideology was evident in the discourse on social media. Anyone critical of the ruling establishment was branded “anti-national” and subjected to verbal assault by online trolls. Online violence sometimes included increasingly real threats of offline violence,” the report noted. 

The report revealed that the “tone of voice was found to be the most common expression of aggression (76.76%), while supporting elements such as sound and visual effects signifying aggression occurred frequently, too (60%)” on Indian television news. 

The report uses dimensions of dominance, and sexism, to analyze what it calls “the present toxic and hegemonic masculinity in news media.” 

The report is based on the monitoring carried out by NWMI volunteers who monitored the journalistic performance of masculinities on prime-time television news and talk shows in multiple Indian languages, including English. 

News channels performing hegemonic masculinity
On September 20, during a big bulletin on Republic TV news channel, the male anchor dominated the female host, the report pointed out. “The female host’s body language is like that of an obedient student. The female host was not given the slightest opportunity to make her own comments on the news. She is in the programme to just read the news and open the floor for the male host to give his comments,” the report said. 

Similarly, on September 28, a Doordarshan Malayalam show featured a male anchor and four male panellists. The report observed that the anchor was seen challenging the panellists and exerting dominance through his body language and tone. He pointed his fingers at the panellists, and his body language was aggressive sometimes, the report stated. “It was also observed that the anchor sometimes tried to exert dominance over the panellist’s viewpoints by paraphrasing their comments and interpreting different conclusions.”

Aggression in the coverage of “Taliban takeover of Afghanistan”
The report pointed out that the coverage of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan across several television channels was aggressive in both news visualisation and the concerned journalists’ performances on various talk shows.

The majority of channels utilised loud, aggressive music, as well as raised voices for the voice-over while presenting the news, the report notes.

“Report’s coders observed that Zee News ran a talk show named The Great Game of Afghanistan that was designed to be sensational,” the report said. “They also noted that the audio-visuals deployed in the show included triggering sounds of bombs, smoke and the cries of frightened people.”

Similarly, Republic TV’s coverage of this media event can be taken as an exemplification of aggression and dominance in a talk show format, the report points out. 

“The Debate, a talk show hosted by Arnab Goswami, known for his very particular brand of aggressive presentation, included several instances in which the anchor, as well as panellists used, raised voices, speaking over each other and interrupting others during the show,” the report noted.

Anjana Om Kashyap, an anchor of the popular Hindi talk show Halla Bol, also displayed several signs of aggression during her reportage as well as her interaction with panellists, it said. 

The report noted that in several episodes that were centred on the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Kashyap adopted a hostile stance towards panellists who were framed as representing pro-Pakistan views. 


Snobar is an intern with She tweets at @snobar19