Children’s Views Not in the News

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Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), as part of its Empowering Children and the Media (ECM) strategy, today released its research results of selected print media’s coverage of children and children’s rights in the news.

The report reveals that children, children’s rights and their issues are afforded very little coverage in the South African media. The latest data to emerge from the ECM reveals that representation of children has improved, marginally, to 8.4% (from 6% in 2003) of all news monitored in 2009. MMA Director, William Bird, said, “The marginal representation is damning, considering that figures from Stats SA show that children account for around 37 to 40% of South Africa’s population.  Not only does this mean that the core issues of such a substantial portion of our population are not being covered, but it also highlights the media’s failure to seize a great opportunity to attract younger readers.”

“Equally importantly though, covering more stories with and about children and children’s issues is essential to South Africa’s future and to addressing most of our core challenges, including, poverty, health and education concerns and crime.” Bird continued.

The monitoring shows that not only are children’s issues frequently sidelined, but careless and unethical reporting often leads to further violations of their rights.  3% of all items about children further violated their rights by being directly or indirectly identified when it was clearly not in the best interest of the child to be identified.

Children are hardly seen and heard even less: Of the 8.4% of stories that contain children only 21% of the children are actually quoted.  “Hear our voices, let us speak for ourselves.” (Child from Troyeville Primary) is a common, call from the children MMA works with.

On the positive side, MMA has also noted a number of clear attempts by media houses to focus more covering children’s stories and including children’s voices. The Star, for example featured a page by Children on Worlds Aids Day. Also there is a clear commitment by newspapers to improving ethical professional standard of reporting on children.  This is highlighted by the adoption of MMA’s guidelines for reporting on children by the Independent Group of Newspapers.  Others, including the Avusa group, have also included a dedicated section on children in their internal guidelines.

The Times scored highest in terms of the quantity of stories on children published (15.25%).  The Saturday Star; however, was rated highest according to MMA’s Media Rating System which rates media coverage of children.  While a media rating system serves to illustrate the broad areas in which media, compared to their competitors, are doing well or poorly.

Accordingly, media coverage of children for the ratings has been divided into five broad questions:
1. Have children’s rights been respected and is the coverage ethical?
2. Are children’s voices heard?
3. Are children’s issues covered in-depth?
4. Are a diversity of children represented, in terms of age, sex, race and region?
5. How has the media covered children overall?

For these criteria the following results are valid for the period May to end August 2009:

Table below:

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“We congratulate the media who performed well in these our first children’s media coverage ratings and hope that it will encourage those who performed less well to ensure that they work to improve their portrayal of children.”  MMA will be releasing regular ratings for these and other media in 2010.

For further information contact

William Bird: 082 887 1370
Media Monitoring Africa : 011 788 1278
Or to download a copy of the report go to: https://www.mediamonitoringafrica.org

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