The use of power, but on indirect persuasion

The government of India announced the award of contract for development and extraction of hydrocarbons from 44 contract areas nationwide, including 28 on-land fields and 16 offshore on February 15, 2017. Within a day of the announcement, protests broke out in Neduvasal, a little-known village in Pudukottai district in southern Tamil Nadu (Jayaraman, 2017.)  Much like the Jallikattu protest, this stir intensified with the support of the youth and celebrities, mobilized through social media (Ganesan, 2017.)

The salient feature of a popular protest is that the disruptive action it makes directly aims at mobilizing public opinion against its opponents. It can easily term as a political resource of an ordinary citizen, who lacks regular access to the political, organizational and financial resources, and above all, direct access to the media. Neduvasal Hydrocarbon Protest has set such an example by taking the officials to their toe. Protesters’ success – in terms of achieving their particular goals – does not depend on the direct use of power, but on indirect persuasion mediated by the news media and by other political actors. Social movements, on the other hand, are those instances of popular protest that are sustained over time. By acting upon their common interests, ordinary people mobilize consensus partly by drawing on deeply rooted feelings of solidarity or identity (Della Porta and Diani, 1999; Tarrow, 2011.)

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The media coverage of a movement also grants it credibility as an important player, which is necessary to have an impact and helps expand the range of players in the conflict, which increases the movement’s influence. In turn, social movements offer drama, conflict, action and photo opportunities (Gamson and Wolfsfeld, 1993). Movements also rely on the media for information about the position of officials and the general public on the issues that they consider as important and also to learn about their actions from this source. Therefore, movements depend on the media for strategic information on which they develop their action strategies, but also use them as a ‘sounding board’ for the assessment of strategies; their opponents and allies largely follow the same route (Koopmans, 2004).

 A frame is the significant point in organizing idea for making sense of on-going events and suggests what is at issue. News and information have no intrinsic value until or unless embedded in a meaningful context that organizes them to a coherent structure. News stories can be understood as narratives, which include information and factual elements, to be sure, but also carry an implicit message (London, 2011). As the format of conflicts and popular protest are being portrayed have an impact on the perception of reader and the agrarian crisis and people’s protest have a trans-national outlook, this study analyses the framing pattern of the 2017 Neduvasal Hydrocarbon Protest reportage by three national English Newspapers namely The Times of India, The Hindu, The New Indian Express. They are chosen to analyze the selection of frames, themes, tones and topics of the reportage over a period of eight months from February 16 to September 30, 2017.

News reports are usually reported in the form of specific events are called “episodic” news stories and which are distinct from “thematic” coverage that places events and issues in some general context. Episodic framing depicts concrete events that illustrate issues, while thematic framing presents collective or general evidence (Iyengar, 1991). It also found that subjects have shown episodic reports were less likely to consider society responsible for the event, and subjects showed thematic reports were less likely to consider individuals responsible. This study inquires about the frequency of Thematic or Episodic themes used in the reportage of the issue. The present study also ventures to find out the tone of the reports, whether they are Pro-Government, Neutral or Pro-Protesters.

Media has specific ways to set the agenda of an issue in reader’s mind. The most important effect of the mass media is its ability to mentally order and organize the world for us. The news media may not be successful in telling us what to think; but they are stunningly successful in telling us what to think about (McCombs and Shaw, 1977). The present study through analysing framing patterns is trying to find out the agenda-setting attitude of newspaper on Neduvasal Hydrocarbon Protest. Attribution of Responsibility, Human Interest, Conflict, Morality, Economic, and Diagnostic are the frames are used to find out the framing pattern.

The present study uses the political frames and tones with regard to the chosen three English language newspapers, to estimate the difference in framing pattern of conflict and the newspaper’s inclination while covering the conflict.