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Corruption leaps up the Indian TV news agenda

Stories of corruption have increased eleven fold on the leading television news channels in India in the six years from 2005-2011, according to a new report from the Centre for Media Studies (CMS).

An unprecedented peak in corruption coverage across all media was witnessed in August 2011, during the Anna Hazare hunger strike, a story which drove 60% of all primetime news reports. Prior to that, from January to June 2011, over 8% of prime time TV news concerned corruption issues, according to the study.

"Reporting on corruption in news media between the year 2010 and 2011 has doubled. However, during July–September of 2011 alone the coverage has more than tripled," said PN Vasanti, director, CMS.

"Since the Anna Hazare crusade, there are initiatives all around and all across the states towards curb, contain corruption and the compulsions. With the kind of spread of e-seva and e-governance services, and transparency movement gaining ground, hopefully news media would take up reporting these in 2012 and expedite the process of decline of corruption," he adds.

During the period of the study, seven scandals were reported on more often by the news media than other stories. These comprised alleged government corruption over the award of 2G mobile licenses, the Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Housing Society, and the long running Bofors arms case; and were joined by the Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare civil protests against corruption; and the alleged fraud involving Hasan Ali and Citibank.

"Most of the corruption covered in 2011 involved individuals, but with high profiles and of high scams. English channels focused relatively more – both on institutions and individuals; while Hindi news channels focused relatively more on individuals in their coverage of corruption," said the CMS report.

CMS analysis for the period January to June 2011 involved primetime coverage, between 7pm and 11pm, of six TV news channels. These comprised NDTV 24x7, CNN-IBN, Zee News, Star News, Doordarshan News, and Aaj Tak. The front pages of six newspapers were also analysed (Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhasjar, Hindustan, The Hindu, The Times of India and Hindustan Times), as was news coverage on All India Radio.

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