General decline in consumption and sharing of news in India: Report

Context
According to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023, the overall consumption and sharing of news declined in India compared to the year 2022, Highlights of the Report:
  • About:
  • The 12th edition of the report, produced in collaboration with the Asian College of Journalism, which has surveyed the ‘news consumption habits’ of consumers across 46 markets.
  • In terms of ‘Overall Trust in News’:
  • As per the report, India registered a small decrease of 3 percentage points (pp) (38%) in overall trust in news compared to last year.
  • India was ranked 24th among 46 countries in terms of ‘overall trust in News’
  • Finland remained the country with the highest levels of overall trust in news (69%) while Greece had the lowest levels of trust (19%), globally.
  • Among individual news brands, public broadcasters like DD India, All India Radio, and BBC News retained high levels of trust among survey respondents in India.
  • YouTube was the most preferred social media platform for news with 56% of the respondents accessing it.
  • WhatsApp (47%) and Facebook (39%) were the next two preferred social media platforms for news in India among the survey respondents.
  • In terms of way of delivery:
  • Video-based content, distributed via networks such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube are becoming more important for news, especially in parts of the Global South.
  • Concerns highlighted:
  • The survey found that users of TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat paid more attention to celebrities and social media influencers than they did to journalists and media companies when it came to news topics.
  • The proportion of people consuming news as the main access point is via a news website or app has fallen from 32% in 2018 to 22% in 2023, while dependence on social media access for news has grown from 23% to 30%.
  • The report also found that news podcasting continued to resonate with educated and younger audiences though it remained a minority activity overall.
News consumption pattern in India:
  • India’s news industry is largely dominated by the television and print sectors, with the Hindi-speaking market accounting for much of the media consumption in the country.
The news channels Aaj Tak and CNN-News18 emerged on top with the largest shares of viewership in the Hindi and English-speaking markets, respectively.
  • Meanwhile, the rapid penetration of smartphones and mobile internet in India has led to digital media emerging as a key player within the news industry.
  • The younger, urban, and more educated news audiences in India frequently access news through online sources that include social media platforms.
  • India is home to over 600 million netizens more than half of which are active social media users.
  • A significant number of these online users access the news using their smartphones which further propelled the use of news aggregators like Google News and Daily Hunt.
What are the emerging Challenges for India?
  • Threat of spreading ‘Fake News’:
  • Fake news or hoax news refers to false propaganda published under the guise of authentic news.
  • It is deliberately created to misinform the readers.
  • Fake news can be propagated through any media: print, electronic and social.
  • Effects:
  • It can be used to influence public opinions, to gain popularity or to malign the image, character of certain individuals or opponents or to defame them.
  • It polarizes public opinion and affects political institutions; political disinformation campaigns in the Indian electoral system could lead to the deepening of existing social discord, loss of civic trust in the electoral system, and the compromise of basic democratic principles.
  • It affects social & communal harmony by spreading extremists’ ideologies especially in sensitive areas like radicalization of youths, inciting violence and hatred among the communities, swinging public opinions etc.
Laws related to Fake News:
  • IPC Sections 153A and 295: Under this action can be initiated against someone creating or spreading fake news if it can be termed as hate speech.
  • Defamation Suit: IPC Section 499 makes defamation a criminal offence. Section 500 provides for punishment for criminal defamation.
  • The Information Technology (IT) Act: It imposes an obligation on intermediaries such as search engine giant Google to remove any objectionable content pursuant to takedown notices by law enforcement agencies.
  • Contempt of Court laws: False stories about judicial proceedings would be covered by contempt of court laws and false stories about Parliament and other legislative bodies would violate privilege.
  • The Constitution of India provides a long-term solution under Article 51A (h), which says, “It shall be the duty of every citizen to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.
Related authorities:
  • The Press Council of India: It is created by an Act of Parliament, is a statutory body and keeps vigil on fake news. It can warn, admonish or censure the newspaper, the news agency.
  • Broadcasting Content Complaint Council (BCCC): A complaint relating to objectionable TV content or fake news can be filed to the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council.

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