Friday, November 16, 2012

Survey Assessments of Media Capacity, Credibility and Literacy in Nepal

Many important and interesting findings on the study I recently directed on assessing Nepali media. The report, MEDIA & THE NEPALI PUBLIC: Survey Assessments of Media Capacity, Credibility and Literacy (2012) has been released.

The study was conducted by Media Foundation- Nepal with support from the Government of Japan, UNDP, and UNESCO. The unique aspect of the study is that it compares Nepali journalists' perpectives with the Nepali public perspectives on a myriad of media topics and issues. The following is the executive summary of the  comprehensive report.

Executive Summary
This report primarily showcases findings of survey assessments that Media Foundation undertook in partnership with UNDP, the government of Japan and UNESCO. The Journalists' Survey and the Public Opinion Survey were conducted during June-July, 2012. The surveys' overall goal was to assess the media environment of Nepal with the immediate objective to identify priorities in the area of media capacity development.

Survey of journalists: The survey found that women journalists comprise a small segment of the total respondents. Most of the Nepali journalists are young; more than half of them are between 19 and 30 years old. Majority of journalists, almost 70%, are from the Brahmin/Chhetri background, followed by those from Newari, Madhesi/terai or janajati background. Close to one-third of journalists are from the urban Kathmandu Valley.

In regards to professional issues, journalists agree that Code violation has frequently plagued their profession, and lack of awareness about ethics is the main reason behind this. Major challenges identified are partisan image of media professionals, lack of security assurances from state, partisan media houses, and individual media worker's lack of technological resources and training.

On credibility, majority of journalists see the media and their content generally trustworthy. However, many tend to see them as partisan. Poor language and presentation style are acknowledged as partially responsible for hampering credibility. Journalists are satisfied with their coverage on contemporary issues like peace, democracy, constitution-making, governance, national politics, etc. but the public response is somewhat critical.

On the capacity measures, journalists appeared somewhat dissatisfied with the available training, curriculum, instruction and practical opportunities such as in-house training and internships. The public also suggest that journalists get more such opportunities.

The highly felt training needs of journalists include developing story ideas, followed by information gathering and writing news stories, and locating source. Both advanced and proficiency-level as well as basic-level trainings are on demand to upgrade their professional capacities. In terms of resourcefulness, time-management, ICT skills, followed by special language skills and multi-media are among the most commonly cited needs of journalists. Many journalists prefer practical, hands-on mode of instruction. Journalists feel that new media has helped them by enhancing access to subject matter, and by helping contact the sources and to interact with them. Although many journalists rely on the Internet for information and news, more than half of those surveyed said they do not have access to new media.

Majority of journalists are affiliated with one or the other professional association or organization. Many believe such affiliation has helped in their networking efforts. Personal beliefs or principles were most often cited as the reasons for journalists' political affiliation, but most of the journalists think such affiliation does not help in their professional capabilities. Journalists believe extra income from vocations other than their regular work in journalism has helped in their journalistic pursuit. Journalists tend to have somewhat mixed views about their satisfaction with achievement in the profession; with over 40% saying they are somewhat dissatisfied.

More than half the responds (53.2%) report they do not have access to new media. Oddly enough, four fifth of those surveyed say they could handle new media tools efficiently, for professional work. Using new media tools, online searching, video-conferencing, creating web pages or personal blogs are among the most cited new media learning interests of journalists.

Public opinion survey: Majority of the media-consuming public is comprised of young people, almost half of them in the age group 19 to 30 years. Almost half comprise the public from Brahmin/Chhetri background, followed by people from the terai/Madhesi communities, or janajatis, and Newars. Most of the public respondents came from Kathmandu Valley, and terai districts of Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, followed by Morang and Sunsari. Married respondents outnumbered the unmarried. There were fewer members of the public with higher academic degrees compared to the journalists that were surveyed.

Most of our public respondents worked in the education sector, followed by business/ industry. The survey suggests that more than one-third of the public has no idea what topics the Nepali media cover; another one-third believes current affairs are the most frequently covered. Similarly, more than one-third of the public is not sure about the most needed topic to be covered by the media. Unlike the journalists who saw media role more in generating awareness on development issues, the public emphasizes journalists' role more in generating awareness on health, education, economy and the environment.

A majority of the public concurs with the journalists in stressing that journalists should be loyal to the general public. More than two-third of the public believes that there is no dearth of skilled journalists in Nepal; a majority of the public saw the role of the press in the country's transition to federalism, believed journalists have less political affiliation today, journalism content is getting better now; and that media are contributing to exposing cases of corruption, and there is more freedom today, etc.

Although the public had high perception of journalists' work as a watchdog, or as a catalyst for social harmony, more than half of those surveyed did not believe Nepali media was neutral.

Most of the public relied on the radio for information and news, followed by friends and family members, and TV. The public is divided in their channel preferences, with most opting for local FM stations, the national radio, and newspapers. Almost one-third of the surveyed public believed Nepali media presented news on public interest, followed by those who thought it encouraged citizen participation. The public generally does not believe that media houses encourage citizen engagement or participation. The public trust TV journalists, followed by journalists of the daily newspapers and radio in that order.

The public is not sure about their trust on journalists by their location or base, nor are they sure of them by the topics they cover. The public trusts journalists working with government media more than those working with the private media, or community media.

In terms of their access to media, most members of the public ranked the radio first, followed by TV, newspapers and the Internet. Almost half of the respondents (46.91%) reported it has the skills to use mobile phone, read newspapers, create web page, play video games, etc. with more than one-third respondents saying they cannot chat online. More than two-third reported they only scan their media and rarely analyzed the context of information given in them. A majority of the public surveyed had not produced a variety of written or audio-visual material, wrote to newspapers or called a TV or radio station, etc.

The complete study is here.