Television

The disabled see things differently

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The Forum of Viewers with Disability, a wing of the Centre for Advocacy and Research, has recently released a study of TV viewing habits of people with disabilities in India.

The Forum has been constantly monitoring Indian television to locate discrepancies as well as change and influence the nuances of representation. The objective of the study was to get an insight into the viewing habits of disabled viewers and their caretakers. The central premise underlying the study was to understand the views of disabled people so that future interventions with the media can take their experiential reality into account.

The study also garnered data regarding their patterns of viewing, and conducted in-depth interviews with some of the respondents. Care was taken to understand the emotive effect that the media has on the participants. The exercise was also intended to establish the dichotomies that prevail between the portrayal of the disabled by the media and the reality as it exists.

The respondents in the survey were 55 disabled people in the age range of 11-70. A sample of ten caretakers was also included in cases where the disabled person was not the primary provider of the information.

Some of the media habits that emerged from the study were

  • Serials formed the bulk of the most watched programs.
  • The preferred programs among the mentally and physically challenged were Koshish?Ek Asha (24 per cent) and Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (11 per cent).
  • In the viewership stakes Star Plus was way ahead with 58 per cent of the respondents saying they watched the channel. It was closely followed by Zee TV with 42 per cent votes and Sony with 40 per cent votes.
  • Those hooked to the serials are those without other entertainment options. Most of them reach home and switch on their television.
  • Respondents‘ wish list
  • There should be more programmes dealing with disabilities, so that the awareness level of society can be raised, 42 per cent of the respondents said.
  • 14 per cent (8 out of 55) felt TV should promote more comedy because life had too many problems. Three per cent of the total male respondents and 29 per cent of the total female respondents, wanted comedy programs to be promoted rather than information.
  • 14 per cent (8 out of 55) voted for informative and educative Programmes.
  •  
  • On the basis of the study, the Forum recommends-
  •  
  • More programmes with subtitles.
  • Disability related programmes with more information as content.
  • Channels should encourage serial makers to research and represent characters with disability in a realistic manner because representations are significant in enhancing the attitude of non-disabled viewers.
  • The physically challenged recommend that producers should include problems of daily living that they encounter, for example, the use of a wheelchair. This would help sensitizing the general population about the conditions the disabled live in.
  • The orthopedically impaired, who made up 42 per cent of the study, watched an average of two to four hours daily. Perhaps this is the only group of disabled viewers for whom media is fully accessible. Much of their viewing is in the evenings during prime time, while the average goes up on Sundays. The respondents, who comprised professionals and students, had a marked preference for serials.

Some other findings -

While the favorite soap was Koshish...Ek Asha, commanding a viewing of 24 per cent probably as the main protagonist is disabled, the study revealed that the viewers were closely following the developments in his life and that they shared his basic concerns regarding marriage and his status in the family.

All, however, felt that the scriptwriter had not portrayed the social status in the right perspective. The shared feeling was that the mentally challenged in India were largely ignored and that even the physically challenged are often not given their place in the family hierarchy. The other big favorite among the serials was KSBKBT with a following of 11 per cent.

The interviews also revealed that the mentally challenged watched movies largely on their own.

Many of the younger respondents said that they primarily watch the news for the hearing impaired because it was conducted in sign language.

The in-depth interviews revealed that many of them preferred to watch action movies and loved watching WWF. Discovery Channel also rated among the favourite channels. The study, in fact, found that as many as eight out of eleven were watching it because it had the maximum amount of visuals and the commentary was only supplementary.

Most favoured channels

Favourite Channels

Male %(approx)

Female%(approx)

Total

Star Plus

61%

54%

58%

Sony

35%

46%

40%

Zee TV

32%

54%

42%

DD

3%

8%

5%

Metro

13%

12%

13%

Sports

10%

-

5%

Discovery

10%

-

11%

Astha

-

8%

4%

MTV

6%

-

4%

Star News

22%

8%

16%

Star gold

6%

4%

5%

Cartoon Network

6%

-

4%

Star Movies

6%

4%

5%

ESPN

6%

-

4%

Zee News

6%

4%

5%

Aaj Tak

13%

-

7%

National Geographic

10%

-

5%

Any Other

B4U, Star World Aastha, V channel, etc.

16%

-

9%

Most favoured programmes

Favourite TV Prog.

Male% (approx.)

Female% (approx.)

Total %

Koshish Ek Asha

22%

25%

24%

Bhajan Programmes

13%

4%

9%

KGGK

6%

8%

7%

WWF

3%

-

2%

CID

-

4%

2%

KSBKBT

6%

17%

11%

KBC

13%

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