News panels led by men far more hostile than panels led by women, report finds


Over the past decade, Indian television news has become synonymous with noise. Frantic debates, sensationalism, verbal abuse all play out in newscasts, panels and talk shows. A new report has traced the hostility and sexism embedded in these news programs and found a genre diagram. More than 50% of all news programs sampled in the analysis had some form of aggression, and male presenters were more likely to exhibit “aggressive male” behaviors, such as belittling their panelists, compared to female presenters.

The report, titled “Staging Aggressive Masculinity”, was released earlier this week by the Network of Women in Media. Researchers monitored 185 news channels and talk shows across 31 channels in 12 languages, to identify how masculinity is interpreted on Indian television. These channels include ABP Ananda, WION, CNN-News18, News 18 Bangla, NDTV Hindi, Republic, Saam TV, Odisha TV, Times Now, Kanak TV among others. The researchers complemented these findings with a parallel analysis of what happens on social media – in how this toxic masculinity is reproduced in online discourse.

Three common tropes through which this masculinity develops are: using aggression (tone of voice, sound and visual effects) instead of facts; domination (based on caste, religion, gender); and sexism in speech and behavior.

Sample those numbers. When a male presenter moderated a news panel, more than 50% among these was an aggressive masculinity on display – things like talking over the panelist, body language, plus yelling at each other. For example, a Doordarshan Malayalam broadcast on September 28, with a male presenter and four male panelists, turned into an aggressive, aggressive tone.

“It was also observed that the anchor sometimes tried to exert dominance over the views of the panelist by paraphrasing their comments and interpreting different conclusions,” the report revealed. In comparison, only 15% of panels moderated by women had similar displays.

The trend seems to be more serious on talk shows, which are relatively less constrained in their format. Nearly 85% of the sampled talk shows exhibited some toxic masculinity – whether in the form of dominating others, using an aggressive tone or dismissive language (which was an indicator of “overt sexism”) ). When it comes to gender-sensitive language, women anchors were found to be more aware than their male colleagues – 41.57% vs. 35.42%.

The media industry is based on certain truths, one of them being that it remains male-dominated despite the growing representation of women in journalism. This has an impact on what becomes news and how that news is framed. But the findings highlight how journalists also become complicit in the display of “masculinist” performance. So-called “masculine attributes” – like “bravery, strength, honor and courage” – are naturalized as “essentially masculine” through this journalistic performance.

Undoubtedly, this is not a criticism of male journalists. “…but hegemonic and toxic associations of masculinity with aggression, domination, misogyny, and ultimately violence,” the report notes.

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By embracing bluster, television journalism has normalized aggression and masculinity. It has a cost. On the one hand, it reinforces the idea that ‘masculinity’ and ‘power/dominance’ constitute ‘good’ journalism.

Interestingly, both male and female journalists on the panels were likely to engage in masculinist behaviors. So while 78.13% of male anchors surveyed used an aggressive tone when speaking, the number was only slightly lower for female anchors – at 75.28%.

How do we explain this? Finnish scholar Ojajärvi ja Valtonen has argued that short stories are a masculine genre – representing values ​​traditionally considered masculine. Then it forces a woman in the media to “become one of the boys” or be fired unless “she’s ready to [conform] to male standards. As one scholar once pointed out, “When something is about masculinity, it’s not always about men.”

This behavior also inevitably leads to less representation and diversity in the television news media in general.

Moreover, this toxic masculinity on television as displayed by these “dominant” journalists reproduces the tone and tenor of hate speech and vitriol online. “Toxic masculinity combined with a right-wing, hyper-nationalist and mainstream ideology was evident in the discourse on social media. Anyone who criticized the ruling establishment was branded ‘anti-national’ and subjected to verbal abuse by online trolls,” the report noted.

Patriarchy is increasingly discussed in the context of multiple oppressive ideologies, “including hyper-nationalism, ethnocentrism, racism, and casteism, all of which are fundamentally linked to masculinities.” Tied to each of these -isms, the authors explain, “masculinities become a hegemonic and eventually toxic force that serves to entrench existing hierarchies and modes of being.”

This toxic on-screen masculinity is arguably the tip of the iceberg. More pernicious and deeply rooted forms of gender-based oppression manifest themselves throughout the media production process. But identifying the problem, as they say, is the first step to actually doing something about it.

One of the recommendations that NWMI offers is to develop an “editorial ethics manual” for all news channels; this could include a checklist “for rating journalistic performance and programming on a toxic masculinity scale.” Think about questions such as: “Do you feel a constant urge to tell your panelists they are wrong, totally wrong, completely wrong” or “Do you ever notice that your panels are all manels and/or savarna”?

The report also urges news channels to provide more diverse panels on talk shows. “A greater diversity of guests on panels and talk shows is crucial. It is especially important to include members of groups that have historically been marginalized on the basis of gender, caste, creed and other identities, class, occupation, location, disability , sexual orientation, etc.


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