Of 121 managerial positions in newsrooms surveyed in a study on the caste composition of the Indian media released on Friday, 106 were occupied by members of the upper castes and none by members of the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes.

The study, conducted by the NGO Oxfam India and Newslaundry, a media-watch website, also noted that “three out of every four anchors (among a total of 40 anchors in Hindi channels and 47 in English channels) of debates are upper caste”. In addition, “for over 70% of their primetime debate shows, news channels draw the majority of the panellists from the upper castes”.

The report “provides substantial evidence that vast sections of India’s marginalised caste groups lack access to the media platforms and discourses that shape public opinion, leading to their invisibilisation”, the authors conclude.

Scroll.in was among the organisations that was included in the study, titled “Who Tells Our Stories Matters: Representation of Marginalised Caste Groups in Indian Newsrooms.”

Anchors and bylines

On television, members of the upper castes dominated both anchor slots as well as places on panels. On news websites, 72% of bylined articles on news websites were written by members of the upper castes.

Writing on caste

Even on matters relating to caste, the report finds that over half of anchors and writers are upper caste. An exception was the Hindi newspaper Amar Ujala, 100% of whose writers on caste were members of the scheduled castes.

A pitch for diversity

The report’s authors recommend affirmative action as a way to diversify newsrooms to better reflect the country’s demographics and social character noting that it is incumbent upon newsrooms to set up systems of identifying and training journalists from across the social system. While many acknowledge their lack of diversity, there is little concerted effort to push for greater representation. As a matter of fact, the team of researchers themselves are largely upper caste, and state time and resource constraints for this.