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Friday, January 2, 2009

Mumbai terror attacks coverage extensive but theatrical: survey report

Though most people approved of the extensive coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks that began on November 26, 2008, they had issues with the content and style of the coverage, according to a survey conducted by Newswatch.

The media site carried out the survey to gauge the reactions of people to the non-stop coverage by television channels of the attacks across several locations in the city.

‘Even as National Security Guard (NSG) commandos fought a pitched battle with the terrorists, and television cameras and journalists kept viewers updated all through, coverage itself became news,’ says the survey report.

The survey was conducted primarily over a web-based interface, from December 3-6, 2008. In all, 9,906 responses were selected for analysis. Sixteen questions dealt with perceived negative aspects of coverage of the attacks by news and business channels. In all, 21 English and Hindi channels were shortlisted for assessment.

Respondents were asked to rate each of the 21 channels on a scale of 1 to 5, in an increasing order of perceived negativity. The ratings were subsequently used to arrive at a weighted mean on a scale of 100.

Some highlights of the survey results:

* 97% said the high point was round-the-clock, extensive coverage.
* 74% felt that the reportage presentation was theatrical.
* 73% thought TV channels are goading the Indian government to go to war with Pakistan.
* Arup Ghosh and Shireen of NewsX were thought to be the most cool/best anchors/reporters.
* Barkha Dutt of NDTV was thought to be the most theatrical/worst anchors/reporters.
* More than half said Shobhaa Dé was one celebrity who did not deserve to be on TV. Respondents voted the best guest commentators as being C Uday Bhaskar (44%), Gerson da Cunha (17%) and Maxwell Perreira (16%).
* In most segments, DD News and BBC were seen to be the least sensational.

Most TV channels were seen to be theatrical in terms of dramatisation of events/gesticulations by reporters/anchors. The worst were Aaj Tak (96%) and Zee News (94%); the best were DD News (55%) and BBC (53%).

Most respondents agreed that TV channels went ‘overboard with their colourful and loaded language’. DD News (58%), CNN (68%) and BBC (64%) were perceived to be the least negative.

Most channels were also blamed for giving away the locations of guests hiding in the two hotels, the Taj and the Trident.

To the question ‘Did many questions asked by TV reporters to guests/officials come across as ‘daft’,’ most respondents said they did with UTVi and Sahara Samay attracting the most criticism (96%). Ninety-four per cent of viewers who watched NDTV, Sahara Samay and UTVi said the channels went overboard in roping in celebrities to comment on the attacks.

Apart from the two foreign channels, BBC and CNN, all other channels were perceived to be over-emphasising the Pakistan angle while operations were still on.

Since this was an online survey, the results reflect the opinions of India’s Internet users only, not those of people as a whole. In that sense, Newswatch admits, ‘this survey is as elitist as the coverage of the attacks was made out to be by most detractors’.

The report also carries excerpts from relevant critical articles that appeared in newspapers/Internet sites, and the opinions of some of the survey respondents.

Read the full report on


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