India is a multi-lingual society where a child is born with exposure to at-least 2 or more languages. An average Indian gets exposed to at least 2 languages every day and this has become part of her identity. Hence, the idea of exposure to media vehicles in different languages does not even strike her as strange or misplaced. She is comfortable with this multilingual aspect of her personality. But there is choice for her and when faced with the choice, she unknowingly chooses one language over other while consuming the media.
Therefore it is very likely that she consumes different media in different languages and this is the hypothesis that forms the base of this work. This work aims to find out the factors that affect choice of media consumption among multilingual consumers.
This work analyses the multi-lingual media consumption behaviour in Gujarat and Maharashtra markets. The data from TAM and IRS has been analysed to throw light on the multilingual media consumption behaviour in these markets. In Depth Interviews were conducted to probe the factors that emerged to gain insights on the multilingual audience behaviour.
India is a country with diverse languages. There are 22 scheduled languages as per the Eighth Schedule of The Constitution of India (p. 330). Of these 22 languages, some correspond to geographical boundaries and enjoy distinct advantages in 'linguistic states' and are often referred to as 'regional languages' (Kothari, 2006).
"A multilingual society is a society which has more than one significant language group" (Multilingual Society, Wikipedia). In essence, India is a multilingual society where a child is born with exposure to at least 2 languages.
"Given India's multilingualism, most Indians straddle at least two languages in their everyday lives. This is an informal and unstudied part of daily life in India" (Kothari, 2006: 6). Thus language shapes identity, especially in India. One of the first and perhaps the most divisive battles fought in post-independent India was over language (Memon and Banerjee, 1997:98). According to Kothari (2006), "Language became a way of providing a base, a ground for laying down roots. This by itself is not new to any culture - languages have always been strong markers of identity. What is significant, however, is the strong conflation between what may be called 'mother tongue' and identity that became evident in the wake of Indian Independence." (p. 26).
The choice of media consumption is largely dependent on the language of the offering, but language context also plays an important role in the choice of media consumption. For example, a person conversant in Marathi might still read an English newspaper for his business news because he is working in an MNC; or he might watch Hindi cinema for entertainment even though his social circle might revolve around Marathi language.
Naturally, the concept of media consumption choice among multilingual consumers entails study, more so because there is no body of research that has even tried to study this phenomenon and link it to the society. This study aims to find out the factors influencing the choice of language of media consumption among multilingual consumers.
The research though entails 'multilingual' consumers- a word which includes any person who uses or is able to speak two or more languages with some facility, the research will only focus on consumers who can speak more than two languages with some facility. Thereby, the states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal come directly under the purview of this study. Although, as per the constitution of India, there are 22 languages and each of these are important. Thus a study across all these states is necessary to understand media consumption behaviour to a full extent. Also the states that come under the Hindi speaking belt also have language that are not covered under the eighth schedule but still have a sizeable number of speakers like the Bhojpuri language which has a film industry based on it and is highly profitable. Thus a study on multi-lingual consumers should entail all these states. However, because of constraints of time and money, this research would cover only a few states with multilingual population.
The research aims to find out the impact of language preferences on media consumption across different media. The body of this work would be targeted towards individuals. The research aims to find out linkages between factors like sex, medium of education, mother tongue and media consumption habits for people belonging to different socio-economic classes. For the purpose of this study, TAM, IRS and TGI would be used to find out the above mentioned linkages.
The topic of the present study is to gauge the reasons influencing the choice of language of media consumption among multilingual consumers. Though the importance of language in daily lives of people and its importance in a country like India have been widely studied and researched, little has been done in the exact area pertaining to this topic of research. None of the research papers or books that I came across covered the role played by language in determining the media consumption.
All the studies done on Indian languages helped in understanding the vitality of language in a multilingual, multicultural society like India and the place it holds in history. According to Sharma (2006), the term language has vast connotations. Any form of communication like signals, movements, gestures, symbols, sounds etc are all languages in the most basic form. "At the dawn of human civilization when language was in the process of evolution only sounds of weeping, laughter or crying represented their feelings but with the passage of time various languages evolved in different regions. It goes without saying that religion is the most powerful force to guide the humanity but sometimes language overshadows it; it excites the deepest emotions of man. Language is a wheel of expression; it is not only a means of communication but also reflects the culture and character of the people. It is an independent stream in itself, without the artificial dams of creed and religion in the way. Language is ever changing, ever growing and mirroring people who speak and write it. It has its roots in the masses; it should vary and expand with growing needs and be essentially the link between a good number of people and not a select coterie. This is all the more imperative in this age of science and technology and more to say the age of 'knowledge explosion'" (Sharma, 2006)
Language has proved to be both a great uniting force as well as a great divisive one. When regions having people of different religions speak a common language, it acts as a great binding force, a cause that makes all of them unite. On the other hand, we have witnessed one of India's first post independence war caused by the imposition of Hindi over non-Hindi speaking states. The police atrocity on peaceful demonstrators in Chennai on 26th Jan, 1965 lead to what we now infamously call as 'Tamil Nadu on fire'. Protestors immolated themselves and there was a huge riot that broke out in different parts of Tamil Nadu to protest against Hindi imposition (Rao, 2003: 9).
The idea of common language as a unifier can be seen from the importance of English as a Translation Language in India. A common 'idea of India' can be made available to people of different regions only through translation. (Nair, 2002:7)
The English translation from Indian languages becoming a culturally desirable activity invoked the curiosity of the factors the driving the same in Kothari (2006). This lead her to examine the changing cultural universe of urban, English-speaking middle class in India. Her work is centred on the production of the body referred to as Indian Literature in English Translation. It concerns itself with this industry and what goes into feeding it.
The question of the role played by language in media consumption is partly studied by Desai (2005) in a paper titled "Intra and Inter cultural diversities in the era of Globalization: Transnational Television in India". The paper reports the findings of an exploratory study of two linguistic communities from the western part of India. The communities chosen for the study were Marathi, rooted traditionally in the soils of the state of Maharashtra, and Gujarati, belonging to the neighbouring state of Gujarat, which became minority language group in Mumbai after bifurcation of Bombay State in 1961. The study examines influence of transnational television on value orientations of individualism and consumerism across these two linguistic communities. In spite of differences in material conditions of the communities, there were similarities in value orientations of individuals indicating inter-cultural similarities. The patterns of media consumption as well as transnational television viewing varied significantly mainly due to socio-economic differences. The findings did not support the premise of cultural-media imperialism in the context of India.
The social construct of multilingual consumers is different from that of monolingual consumers and hence the language of offering vastly impacts the consumers' thinking process. Noreiga & Blair (2008) consider whether the choice of language in advertising to bilingual influences the types of thoughts they have in response to an advertisement. According to them, a native language advertisement is more likely to elicit self-referent thoughts about family, friends, home or homeland, which in turn may lead to more positive attitude measures and behavioural intentions. Furthermore, these effects are moderated by the consumption context present in the advertisement.
RESEARCH OBJECTIVE AND QUESTIONS
The objective of the research is to study the factors influencing the choice of language of media consumption among multilingual consumers.
The following are the research questions that are likely to be answered through this study:
- What are the linkages between Sex, Medium of Education, Mother Tongue, Age group etc on the media consumption habits of multilingual consumers?
- What are the trends that emerge over a period of time?
- Audience Research - TAM and IRS data were used to understand the media consumption pattern in different regions based on language. The prime focus of the study was based on regions of Gujarat and Maharashtra.
- Primary Research - The primary research would be carried out to probe into the findings of the different currencies of audience measurement. The following research instruments will be used in order to conduct the primary research :
- In-Depth Interview - In-Depth interview with 7-8 people who are representatives of each of the state mentioned above would be carried out. The purpose of these interviews is to get a clear picture of the factors that influence the choice of language of particular media consumption.
- Sampling Unit - The sampling unit will be individuals with access to 2 or more media and conversant in more than 2 languages. An equal mix of male and female of age-groups 15-34, 35-44 and 45+ would be studied. This is chosen primarily because the media consumption habits of each of these age-groups is considerably different and this is the Age Demographic split that can be easily explored using the various Audience Research currencies.
- Sampling Method - The sampling method followed will be non-probability sampling. Within non-probability sampling, a convenience sampling method will be used. The sample will be drawn from major cities of the states mentioned above.
- Sample Size - A sample size of 8 respondents will be drawn from across major cities of the states mentioned above for the purpose of the In-Depth interviews.
- Analysis - The trends would be analysed with the help of audience measurement currencies like TAM and IRS from 2007 to 2009. This will help in understanding if there have been shifts or modern influences on the choice of language of media consumption. The findings from this would be probed with the help of In-Depth interviews from individuals as defined above. This will help in understanding the factors influencing media consumption in different languages across genres.
A look at the Print Readership figures in the markets of Gujarat and Maharashtra gives a very clear picture of the reading habits in these regions. The data clearly points out to a preference of regional language newspaper over other languages. However, there is a marked difference in the way Gujarat and Maharashtra market behaves. While Gujarat market is more or less homogeneous with Gujarati language dailies dominating the market completely across various cities, the Maharashtra market displays a widely varying readership pattern. Looking at the data (Appendix 1), we can clearly see two pockets emerging from the Maharashtra market. On one hand, we have the Marathi stronghold areas of Aurangabad, Nashik, Pune, Kolhapur and Solapur. On the other, we have Hindi stronghold area of Nagpur and Amravati to a certain extent primarily because of their proximity to Madhya Pradesh. Because of this and the metropolitan Mumbai, the Maharashtra market, though dominated by Marathi readership, has considerable readership of English and Hindi Dailies.
For the Gujarat Market, despite Ahmedabad being a metro, the readership of English Dailies is quite low compared to Maharashtra. This shows that most Gujaratis prefer reading newspaper in their mother tongue and hence are more comfortable reading Gujarati.
The readership figures of English weeklies are slightly higher than Hindi and Vernacular weeklies in both the regions.
The television viewership is markedly different for the 2 markets. While Hindi GECs leads the pack, followed by Hindi Movie Channels across Gujarat and Maharashtra on the whole, the Marathi GECs display the next higher viewership in Maharashtra market but Gujarati Regional Channels are nowhere close to competition in the Gujarat market.
Maharashtra Market Viewership
Although Hindi GECs and Hindi Movies are the highest viewed genres in C&S homes in Maharashtra, Marathi GECs are close third in terms of overall viewership. If we take into consideration C&S and Terrestrial homes together, then Marathi GEC comes second in terms of overall viewership. Since the Terrestrial homes are marked by restriction of choice and hence higher viewership of GECs, the further analysis has been based on the C&S homes only. A closer look at the Maharashtra market (Appendix 2) reveals that strong Marathi markets like Pune have the highest viewership of Marathi content while the figures are again normalised because of the markets like Nagpur and Amravati which are closer to MP (and hence have a higher Hindi influence). Considering this, together with the metropolitan Mumbai, it can be said that Maharashtra market has strong viewership of Marathi content.
The viewership is similar for different SECs (Appendix 2). However, the viewership of Marathi GEC scores above Hindi Movies for Females in the C&S homes.
Gujarat Market Viewership
Gujarat Market has a very dismal viewership of Gujarati Regional Channels in C&S homes. Also the viewership for Gujarati channels is low in and C&S and Terrestrial homes combined hence indicating a low preference for Gujarati content on Television. Hindi GEC again leads the pack here with Hindi Movie coming in at second in terms of overall viewership percentage. Notice the high value for others which is primarily the content offered by Local Cable Operator.
The data comes as a little surprise for a market that shows such a high readership figure for Gujarati content. Hence a closer scrutiny on the reasons for such an aberration is warranted. The reason for this aberration has been explained in this work.
Also interesting to note is that Hindi GEC leads the pack by a high margin to other genres for CS 15+ Females compared to the parity between genres in case of CS Male 15+ audience. This also points out the preference for Hindi GEC in Gujarati households as Television viewing during Prime Time is a Female dominated activity.
MEDIA CONSUMPTION AND LANGUAGE
In the above section, it was observed that Print Readership is primarily dominated by regional influence whereas no such direct link could be established for Television viewership. It seems it is equally likely for a multi-lingual person in the two regions to watch Hindi content as is watching Vernacular content. Hence, starting premise of this work that people consume different media in different languages is emerging quite clearly. Also the variation in the behaviour is not so much dependent on sex as both the groups exhibit nearly similar media consumption pattern.
The following questions arise from the above analysis:
- Are the people who read Vernacular dailies same as the people who watch Hindi GEC or Hindi Movies?
- Is there a co-relation between the media consumption habit and demographics of the population or the basic differentiating factor is attitudes and beliefs which are hitherto unconsidered?
- Is there a difference in language of information and language of entertainment in the minds of the consumers?
- Are the language preferences dependent on other factors such as Age, SEC and cultural affinity?
To gain a deeper understanding of this phenomenon and to answer the questions posed above, it is important to dig deeper into the data to get insights of the media consumption habits of multilingual audiences. Hence a cross-tab of print readership with television viewership across genres has been analysed.
PRINT VS TELEVISION
The cross-tab between print readership and television viewership was conducted using IRS R2 2009. For this purpose, trends have been analysed for different Age-Group and SEC combinations for the Gujarat and Maharashtra markets.
SEC combination of AB & CDE were analysed with the age-groups 15-34, 35-44 and 45+ for both the markets. The SEC combination was selected keeping in mind that further narrowing down the SEC to a single group would not yield sufficient data. Hence the SEC groups chosen have been grouped in such a way that they exhibit nearly similar behaviour. Again the age-groups have been selected in such a way that they represent the Youth, Middle age and older population respectively.
There is marked difference in the behaviour of audience in the Maharashtra market categorized by SEC. The lower SECs exhibit low readership of any print media and Marathi dailies are clearly the choice of these audiences. The readership doesn't change much for the Marathi dailies across different age-groups.
A look at the above data on the viewing preferences against reading preferences for the audiences belonging to SEC C, D & E gives an idea of the strong influence of regional language on the readership of Marathi Dailies across genres. Readership of Hindi daily is a distant second even when the Television content is Hindi.
Note: The English television content's viewership has not been examined here because of low viewership of such content and hence statistically it was not possible to chart out the same to draw any meaningful conclusion.
As can be seen, the reading habits of SEC AB are totally different. If a person watches Marathi content, then he's most likely a reader of Marathi daily as well. But if a person views Hindi content, there is equal likelihood of him reading English or Marathi newspaper. A person viewing English content is most likely to read an English newspaper.
The trend is similar across age groups which lead to the following findings:
- SEC is a major determiner in the reading preferences of an individual in Maharashtra market.
- The SEC AB shows equal liking towards English and Marathi newspapers across all genres compared to their lower SEC counterparts who are more inclined to Marathi
- The younger audience has greater acceptance for English and Hindi Newspapers compared to the older audience.
- In SEC AB, the people watching English news are the ones who show the highest readership for English newspapers and similarly audiences watching Marathi programs are the ones who show the highest readership for Marathi Newspapers.
- In SEC AB, a person who watches Hindi Programs (News + GEC) is equally likely to read an English newspaper or a Marathi newspaper.
The market of Gujarat is uniform across age-groups and SECs and surprisingly, there is abysmally low readership of Hindi and English newspapers across all categories despite the presence of Metro and Tier-1 cities.
A person irrespective of whether he watches a Hindi GEC, Gujarati content or English content reads Gujarati as can be observed from Figures 13 to 18.
If this data is compared against the Cross-Tab data for Gujarat CDE Audience, we see that there is not much difference in the choice of language for print readership but the numbers are reduced because of low education levels.
From this the following findings emerge:
- Gujarat is a strong market for Gujarati newspaper in the print business but in Television, the viewership of Gujarati channels is very low.
- The market is more or less uniform across segments and even the upper SECs have a preference to read Gujarati.
PRIMARY RESEARCH FINDINGS
The analysis done till now focused on the media consumption behaviour of the audiences. However, the reason why audience consume media in different language still needs to be explored. For this, we need to understand the attitudes and perceptions towards the various media offerings and why one is considered over the other. Hence, in-depth interviews were carried out with different respondents belonging to the two states to understand the following phenomena:
- There is a co-relation between media consumption habit and demographics of the population as analysed in the previous section. However, the co-relation does not stand out sharply as we could see with the case of Gujarat market. Hence it is necessary to probe the reasons for the same
- The hypothesis of 'Language of Information' being different from 'Language of Entertainment' does not hold strong because multilingual consumers view programs in Hindi as well as vernacular language and also access information in different languages as could be seen in the previous section. Hence, there must be some other factor which influences this multi-lingual consumption behaviour.
The findings from the primary research are as follows:
- Choice of Program depends a lot on Production Quality.
- Given a choice between Hindi program and a Regional Language Program, if production quality and content is similar, multi-lingual consumers would prefer to watch a Regional Language program
- But this choice also depends on factors such as Age, Medium of Education, Family structure etc.
- A young multi-lingual consumer is exposed to different languages in his daily life routine and hence is more open to Hindi and English
- Choice of Media depends a lot on family as a whole rather than an individual. For example, a Guajarati individual might like to read English newspaper but since his parents and spouse are more comfortable with reading Gujarati, he'll also read Gujarati newspaper.
- A person who has done schooling from Gujarati/Marathi medium is more likely to consume media in the same language, but when a person has studied in English medium schools, then his approach to media selection becomes much more broader.
- The quality of programming in the Gujarat market is considered to be of sub-standard quality and actors are not as talented. Also the story line and themes and narrative style hasn't advanced with time to cater to the entertainment needs of Modern Gujarati. Hence, the program choice available to a Gujarati is limited and as a result he/she watches Hindi soaps.
- This is not the same case with Marathi market where the production quality, programming, narrative style, themes and talent pool have advanced with time. The content is rated at-par with Hindi content.
- The plot and story line are major determiners of what language a person would watch his/her program in. If the plot is catchy, then the individual is more likely to stick to that particular program and less willing to try other programs.
- English and Hindi news channels are perceived to provide faster and better coverage of round the globe events and hence there is higher motivation to view Hindi news channels compared to regional news channel. However, regional news channels are the best source to catch up local news.
- Hindi content does well because there is not much difference in these 2 languages from Hindi and the audience has been exposed to Hindi content right from childhood.
CULTURE ANALYSIS OF TOP PROGRAMS
A program performance analysis of the top programs in the Maharashtra market in CS 15+ homes reveals that programs that have some element of Marathi culture in them do well in these markets. The analysis was done for weeks 49 to week 52, year 2009 and the following is the result of the run.
From the program performance analysis of top programs in All India CS 15+ homes, it might appear that programs that are doing well in Maharashtra are the same that are doing well all across India. However, the thing to be noted here is that these programs compete against Marathi programs. The serial 'Pavitra Rishta' showcases a Marathi family and all the family values shown in the serial are Marathi which appeals to the Marathi sensibility.
Another serial 'Bairi Piya' which is popular in Maharashtra is based on the story of farmers in Vidarbah and 'Jhansi ki Rani' is a story of Rani Laxmibai who was a great freedom fighter from Maharashtra.
The Gujarati cultural affinity comes out even strongly with the show 'Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chasmah' being the most watched show in Gujarat. This show and another program 'Baa Bahu aur Baby' are based on Gujarati families and the cultural context here is very much Gujarati. Hence these programs, which don't even figure in the Top 30 programs all over India, make the case stronger that choice of program strongly depends on cultural affinity of its audiences.
FINDINGS AND RESULTS
The following findings emerge from the study:
- Multilingual audiences consume different media in different language
- Multilingual audiences consume different genres in different languages within the same media as well.
- Mother Tongue is an important factor in choice of media.
- Medium of education, social background and age are important determinants of media choice.
- Quality of content is also an important determinant of choice of media consumption.
- Gujarati market is a strong vernacular market with a lack of choice of good quality regional content for its audiences. A good quality regional content backed by quality programming would help in reviving the Gujarati entertainment and film sector and hence steps need to be taken in this regard.
- The plot and story line are major determiners of what language a person would watch his/her program in. If the plot is catchy, then the individual is more likely to stick to that particular program and less willing to try other programs.
- Culture is an important determiner of the content choice which supersedes the language barrier. Hence shows with cultural context similar to one's own tend to do better even if the language of content is not the same as Mother Tongue.
- Family plays an important role in determining the media consumption habits of a multilingual consumer
LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
The study has a very huge scope and due to paucity of time, only a small portion of it has been studied. The findings are based on the results of IRS and TAM. Certain demographic segments have been grouped together in order to get significant data from these Audience Measurement currencies. It is possible that this data is not representative of the population of the region and hence the findings would be more accurate by commissioning a quantitative study in these regions. Further, the findings are based on the 2 regions and generalises for the entire Multi-lingual population of the country. This is a big limitation as culturally, Gujarat and Maharashtra might be similar and hence the generalisation might not hold true. Hence a more comprehensive study involving other multi-lingual communities might give a better understanding.
SCOPE OF FURTHER RESEARCH
As explained earlier in the limitations of this study, the topic has a huge scope for further research:
- The Gujarati Entertainment Industry could be analysed in greater details to arrive at a model for profitable running of the industry and the ways in which it could be revived and marketed to its audiences.
- This study could be elaborated to include more multi-lingual regions to understand the factors affecting the media consumption habits in greater depth. Also it would serve as parameters to understand if the findings can be generalised across different multilingual regions.
This study will be useful for the various stakeholders of the media industry in India. The existing literature on role played by language in media consumption is very limited and in the Indian context it is negligible. Most of the studies focus on language politics in India. The study is therefore an attempt to fill this gap and provide a base for further research in this area.
The body of research would serve as an indicator as to where programming investments should go. It would also help in understanding the uses and gratification construct from the language point of view. Hence, this study will be useful not only to programmers but also serve as starting point for other researchers who want to explore this field further.
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