Assessing Media Literacy Levels among Audience in Seeking and Processing Health Information during the COVID-19 Pandemic

© Media Watch 12 (1) 93-108, 2021
ISSN 0976-0911 | E-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2021/v12i1/205461


Assessing Media Literacy Levels among 
Audience in Seeking and Processing 
Health Information during the COVID-19 Pandemic


Sandhya Rajasekhar1, Deepa Makesh2 & S. Jaishree3
1,3M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, India
2Loyola College, India



Media plays a crucial role in information dissemination during significant social, economic, political events and crises, including epidemics. Public look upon the media for credible and authentic information during such times resulting in a surge in information seeking. In 1976, Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin DeFleur proposed media dependency theory (Lin,2020). Audience dependency on the media increased with the rise in social conflicts, resulting in greater chances of the media’s potential effect. During epidemics, media is known to spread awareness and disease mitigation efforts (Xiao et al., 2015). But in the digital age, information overload, misinformation, and rumours tend to be detrimental to such mitigation efforts. The Director-General of WHO (2020) stressed the importance of facts, stating that misinformation makes health workers’ efforts challenging.  While social media platforms have been asked to screen fake news, the influencers have been asked to actively promote facts in their posts, as some of the measures to tackle the ‘infodemic’ regarding COVID-19. This study uses the concept of media literacy, active audience, media dependency theory, health information-seeking behaviour, expectancy-value theory, among others, to recognize information search patterns and assess media literacy levels, including processing and verification of information by mainstream media audiences and social media users during the COVID-19 pandemic period in India.


Keywords: Audience, health information, information overload, media literacy, misinformation, pandemic



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Sandhya Rajasekhar is an Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism (School of Communication and Media Studies) at M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women (Autonomous), Chennai, India. Her research areas include digital literacy, uses and gratification studies, health communication, and film studies.

Deepa Makesh is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual Communication  at Loyola College, Chennai, India. Her focus of research is health communication. 


S. Jaishree is an Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Communication (School of Communication and Media Studies) at M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women (Autonomous), Chennai, India. Her research areas include women’s studies, development communication, digital literacy, uses and gratification studies, social marketing campaigns, and health communication.


Correspondence to: Deepa Makesh, Department of Visual Communication, Loyola College, Nungambakkam, Chennai-600 034, India