TELEVISION COVERAGE OF EARTHQUAKE SHARING THE VIEWERS PERSPECTIVE

IN Books | 13/04/2002
It did not entirely address the sense of hopelessness and despair that had got ingrained in their minds

It did not entirely address the sense of hopelessness and despair that had got ingrained in their minds.

It is in this context that a large section of people felt that the quality of coverage was not entirely commendable. They questioned the purpose of unnecessary repetition of images of destruction and death.

As far as helping people to cope with the tragedy is concerned the respondents felt that in some sense the television coverage contributed to the process.

  • With everyone watching the television and accessing the coverage, it generated some sense of unity and a feeling of togetherness. The public service messages particularly by celebrities like Shaktimaan on DD2 really did help and in particular children. (TV par Shaktimaan dwara bachoo ko satavna dene ka paryatna bahut fayademand raha, isse bachoo ko bahut sahara mila). The respondent also shared that Mukesh Khanna (Shaktimaan) visited several districts of Gujarat and consoled children in fear.
  • Emphasising this point one respondent felt that even though the official channel was not as aggressive in their news dissemination.
  • Coverage of people having been rescued from the debris and human-interest stories dealing with the indomitable spirit and heroism of common people turned out to be a great source of hope and encouraged people to recover their human spirits.
  • The presence of experts and placing the issue in the scientific context of natural disasters helped to look at the event more objectively. The constant flow of news report about aid and assistance coming from different parts of the world restored their "faith in humanity". Moreover when television channels decided to adopt villages and assist in the rehabilitation effort this changed their impressions about the involvement of media. Commenting this one respondent said that "we felt very good when we learnt that one of the leading channel had adopted a few villages"

    On the help-line service that the channel offered, although most respondents found the idea useful, not many could speak about it in very concrete terms as they did not actually use the service. The few people who had tried said that they could not "get through". Certainly however the idea was appreciated and some even knew of people who had benefited from it. Finally what counted was not whether it worked or not but the fact that the channels cared and did do their bit to bring people together.

    However, when it came to groups like children, it was observed that none of the coping processes cited above has helped them in any way. They continue to be so withdrawn and frightened that a special effort needs to be made to help them to cope with the trauma. Talking about this one respondent narrated how in a camp she " found
    a group of 15 children belonging to Bhuj, all between the age of 7 and 12, who looked unusually quiet, withdrawn and anxious. Constantly clinging to their mothers, the only thought they would express was asking their mothers about what will happen to them now!"

    It was stressed that many more stories of courage should have been simultaneously aired to counter all the traumatic influences that the coverage had, particularly on the more vulnerable sections.

ASSESSMENT OF THE ROLE OF TELEVISION NEWS CHANNELS

To the section that felt satisfied by what television was seeking to do, there was no doubt that it made a big difference. In fact, according to this group of respondents, people were totally dependent on television to constantly know and get updated about the situation. The sheer

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