46% of Hindus and Muslims feel ‘Modi’s government is portrayed too favorably by the media’


New Delhi: Both Hindus and Muslims perceive media coverage of Prime Minister Modi as biased and there is a deep trust gap between supporters of opposition political parties in the media, according to a report by Delhi-based think tank Lokniti- CSDS and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

“Hindus and Muslims who consume news through various media sources are also likely to believe that the Modi government is portrayed too favorably by the media (46%). Only about one in five news consumers said the media in India provided balanced political coverage – neither too favorable to the government/opposition nor too unfavorable,” the report said.

Titled “Media in India: Access, Practices, Concerns and Effects,” the report used data to show how different communities consume information and how the media landscape is changing.

According to data shared in the report, “Muslim news consumers trust news media (of all types) less than Hindu news consumers, even though the order of trust between the two communities is the same. Hindus and Muslims trust online news sites the least, their level of trust in private news channels and AIR news is also quite low.”

And when it comes to media coverage of PM Modi, the two communities largely seem to be on the same page about perceived media bias.

The extent of the confidence deficit also depends on political tendencies, the report released on Thursday said.

“Those who lean towards the Congress and regional parties trust all types of media less than those who lean towards the BJP. Congressional supporters are, on average, the least confident,” the report shares.

All news channels and media in Doordarshan remain the most trusted.

The report’s findings are based on a sample survey of 7,463 Indian citizens aged 15 and above, conducted in January this year in 19 states and union territories, excluding parts of North- East and Kashmir.

News consumption patterns also differed between supporters of the ruling BJP and opposition parties. The report claimed that most readers of English newspapers supported Congress, while consumers of Hindi news appeared to lean more towards the BJP.

“The proportion of people who mostly read the newspaper in English is only around 3%. However, among this small segment, Congress enjoys the most support. English newspaper readers were slightly more likely to support Congress than the BJP. This is not the case among readers who read newspapers in other languages,” the study notes.

Interestingly, survey respondents were quite divided on the “ethics/morality” aspect of government surveillance of social media content, the report reveals.

“45% of social media users think there is nothing wrong with it (surveillance) and 40% think it is wrong. Active users of Facebook and Whatsapp are most likely to be concerned about their privacy being compromised when using both platforms. Active Signal users appear to be the least concerned about having their privacy compromised while using the app,” the report states.

People have also trusted government departments and websites for information, while Google and Yahoo are also trusted when it comes to privacy-related issues. Social media companies, on the other hand, are the “least trusted” for privacy issues.

“Social media companies are the least reliable. In fact, they are more likely to distrust them (38%) than to trust them (37%). The perception that the government monitors people’s online and phone activities is strongest among active internet users in North West and North India. Many in South India gave a qualified response that the government only monitors some people, not all,” the report said.

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Navigating fake news

Social media, although a game-changer in the media landscape due to access to information, has come with its own baggage as it relies heavily on smartphone ownership.

Television, overall, remains the most popular way to access news across the country, according to the report.

The report also examines the spread – knowingly and unknowingly – of fake news. Survey participants acknowledged that they receive and transmit news and messages that may not be entirely true.

“Nearly half of active internet users and users of social media and messaging platforms have admitted to being misled by fake news or information online at some point. About two-fifths of active internet and social media users admitted to having shared/transmitted misinformation at some point; i.e. they unknowingly and unintentionally shared/transmitted fake news and later realized it was fake. “, we read in the report.

However, admission also depended on whether the consumer knew about the threat of fake news. The most educated respondents were “more likely” to admit being misled by fake news than those who were not, simply because they were unaware that what they were sharing was fake.

The town-village divide

The report also highlighted how city dwellers were more interested in national news than what’s happening locally.

“News consumers in cities are distinguished by their preference for non-local news. They are more likely to consume national news than consumers of news in cities and towns. Those residing in villages are the least likely to be interested in national news; as urbanity increases, interest in national news also increases,” the report states.

In North West India, the survey revealed that consumers prefer national news to local news.

“The strongest preference for domestic news was found among news consumers in Delhi and Haryana. Rajasthan has also leaned more towards national news. As for state information, it was most preferred in Assam, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh,” the report said.

In South India too, consumers are inclined towards hyper-local and international news.

(Editing by Poulomi Banerjee)

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