UGC-Major Research Project: 2015-2018
Media, Democracy and the 2014 General Elections in India
Today as media have become a key arena where politics is played out and political communication rendered visible, the intersection between media and democracy has acquired a great deal of significance. In less than 6 months, as India is faced with a General Election for the formation of the 16th Lok Sabha, such a project assumes significance and imminence. The changing media ecology both in terms of ownership pattern-openly partisan or with ambivalent political leanings, the emergent phenomenon of—advertorials, paid news and private treaties; the near demise of the public service broadcasting, the saturation of the televisual news sphere and the rise of the social media pose fresh concerns and areas of enquiry with regard to how old and new media technologies are going to impact the upcoming General Elections.
This project has the following objectives— to critically study how the media influence electoral politics by ‘public opinion formation’ on key issues of the day by examining a) the existing media ecology across print, television and social media platforms b) an analysis of the campaign advertisements and news coverage of major political parties and candidates on these issues and c) to study the media consumption patterns of the public and its impact on their political attitudes, beliefs, political participation and eventually the voter turnout. The 2014 elections can be read as more a substantive application of the ferment in the communicative architecture in the country and its relationship and impact on politics. For example, it is worth analyzing the media campaigns for the 2014 polls from the vantage point of it- as a measure of the criticality of the democratic discourse and the quality of journalistic practice, in terms of objective coverage or openly partisan propaganda. In sum, the larger terrain being covered would be to deduce just how much do media inform politics and ultimately influence the future course of the Indian democracy.
From the point of view of this project many questions with regard to social media’s impact on the upcoming elections become pertinent-
a) Will the social media bring in the element of representativity so far missing in the traditional mainstream Press and television media?
b) Will the social media by providing more accessible and free spaces through Facebook, Twitter, blogs and websites provide spaces for intervention to minorities, the poor, dalits, tribals, women and other marginalized and excluded sections of the society?
c) Will this be able to subvert the status quo of power relations that has so far existed between the elite media and powerful politicians have created? After all, democracy is in some ways about fostering equality and dignity to all which is hard to achieve without first claiming a right to communication and information.
Consequently, the project maps and critically analyzes the use of media and online media technologies in poll campaigns for the 2014 General Elections and its impact on the Indian voter in particular and the democratic politics in India in general. It also tries to study the quality of information and debates on elections fielded by the major media channels and newspapers in order to measure the depth of public knowledge formation and voter participation. The study should throw light on the complex media-politics relationship and contemporary media ecology.