Gender representation and empowerment in DD serials

The current study attempts to analyze the fiction content of the public service broadcaster using the canvas of gender representation and development.
Research by ANUSHI AGARWAL, DEVI LEENA BOSE and SUSAN KOSHY

Deconstructing gender and developmental messaging in serials 

Introduction: 

It is a well-known fact that social realities of the world we live in are created by televisual images. We use these images to interpret and understand social, economic and political issues. India stands at an interesting point where TV penetration has drastically increased over the years (60% of the households own a TV set)[i], plethora of entertainment channels have flourished after just two decades of disruption of the government monopoly and the doors have been opened for complete digitsatal switchover. In this context, it becomes imperative to understand the role Public Service Broadcaster of the country is playing and the kind of messaging that is being carried through the same. 

One of the key objectives of the Public Service Broadcaster as illuminated in the Prasar Bharati Act 1990 are as follows:[ii] 

  • To uphold the unity and integrity of the country and the values enshrined in the Constitution;
  • To promote national integration;
  • To safeguard citizens’ rights to be informed on all matters of public interest by presenting a fair and balanced flow of information;
  • To pay special attention to the fields of education and spread of literacy, agriculture, rural development, environment, health & family welfare and science & technology;
  • To create awareness about women’s issues and take special steps to protect the interests of children, aged and other vulnerable sections of the society;
  • To provide adequate coverage to diverse cultures, sports and games and youth affairs;
  • To promote social justice, safeguarding the rights of working classes, minorities and tribal communities.
  • To promote research and expand broadcasting faculties & development in broadcast technology. 

While Doordarshan does not clearly state its own vision and mission one can see a summarized glimpse of this on the All India Radio Mission which are to ‘produce and transmit varied programmes designed to awaken, inform, enlighten, educate, entertain and enrich all sections of the people’[iii]. Understanding this as the guiding principle of the national broadcaster we examined select entertainment programming of the PSB from perspective of development and positive gender values. 

Given the importance of images, which can be understood as a combination of visual, verbal and other (music, editing etc.) imagination, it is imperative to understand the lens through which these images are created. The current study attempts to analyze the content of the public service broadcaster using the canvas of gender representation and development.  

The sample under study includes two episodes each of weeklies named Jamunia and Nancy and four episodes each of dailies named Mangal Sutra Ek Maryada and Kashmakash Zindagi Ki. Table 1 below gives detailed outline of the sample under study 

 

Program Name

Total number of Episodes

From (Date)

To (Date)

Program Type

Jamunia

2

14.10.12

21.10.12

Weekly

Nancy

2

14.10.12

21.10.12

Weekly

Mangalsutra Ek Maryada

5

15.10.12

19.10.12

Daily

Kashmakash Zindagi Ki[iv]

4

15.10.12

19.10.12

Daily

The broader analytical framework attempted to study the general gender messaging patterns through mapping diversity, stereotypes, access to location, conversations etc.  A more detailed analysis using the qualitative tools like Bales's Interaction Process Analysis (explained below), coding gender images etc. was conducted to understand how the serials have dealt with the following issues: 

a) Gender representation and empowerment

Within this aspect, an attempt was made to understand the structural issues faced by protagonists and the kinds of solutions offered to deal with the same.  It also focused on the gender imaging which includes appearance, conversations, role, decision-making power etc.  The framework used to analyse above mentioned ideas is listed below:    

  • Identify the causal factors (social shackles/structural forces holding back the protagonist/systemic problems) and analyse whether they have been addressed.
  • Was the show individual-driven or issue-driven?
  • What was the kind of discourse around these issues? What was the engagement of women in these discussions, if any?
  • Was the process of empowerment also discussed? Was the process description part of the resolution being found?
  • Was language used gender-neutral?
  • Was the woman being addressed only by her first name in comparison to her male counterpart? Was that belittling in any manner? 

 

b) Development – Under this we made an attempt to critically examine the kind of developmental messages represented in the serials under study. 

c) Value System- This focused on understanding how certain value systems and morality was framed through these serials.  

 

Conclusion    

It is well accepted that Television constructs social reality and hence it becomes important to investigate the realities that the images streamed by Public service broadcaster create. It is important to remember that in the era of digitization and surfeit of private entertainment channels, Doordarshan is treading the tightrope of performing its duties as the Public Service Broadcaster while also catering to commercial logic. It has often been noticed that there has been an overbearing importance, which is given to development of infrastructure while it is important to focus on the content as well. Considering the fact that DD continues to be one of the channels with the farthest reach, there needs to be a significant thrust in providing programs of good quality.


[i] Mapping Digital Media- India Report, Pg 15, Open Society Foundation, 2012

[iv] Please note that the show was not aired on 16.10.12 and hence no episode has been analysed.

 

Download the full study here: 

 

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