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Indian Media


The first attempt to start a newspaper in India was made in Kolkata in 1766 by William Bolts, the well known author of consideration on Indian Affairs. On January 29, 1780 the first Indian newspaper, the Bengal Gazette, two pages, twelve inches by eight, popularly known as the Hicky’s Gazette was published. During the later half of the 19th century Anglo- Indian press established firm foundation in India. In 1861 there were 11 Urdu newspapers and 8 Hindi newspapers. By 1870 the press in Indian languages was growing rapidly. There were about sixty-two Indian languages newspapers in Bombay, about sixty in North-West Provinces, Oudh and the Central Provinces, some twenty-eight in Bengal, about nineteen in Madras (Tamil, Telugu, Malyalam and Hindustani). There were about 100,000 readers and the highest circulation of any one newspaper was about 3000.

In 1816, Gangadhara Bhattacharya and Harchandra Ray launched a paper from Kolkata Bengal Gazette in Bengali. It was the first newspaper in Indian languages. In the year 1818 Samachar Darpan weekly started for the first time in Bengali, which introduced ‘Indian Commerce’ among the other topics.

During the First World War a remarkable growth in the circulation of newspapers was witnessed. The period also witnessed a keen competition among foreign manufacturers also between them and within the Indian manufacturers.

The Indian press today consists of more than 25,000 newspapers/ magazines/periodicals published in 20 different languages with a combined circulation of more than 75 million. Some of the oldest newspapers in India are Bombay Samachar in Gujarati, published from Mumbai, 1832; Times of India in English, Mumbai, 1838; Pioneer in English, Lucknow, 1864; and Amrit Bazar Patrika in English, Kolkata, 1868. Of course, compared with the teeming population of India the number of newspapers and their circulation is very small. This is due to the fact that still a great majority of our countrymen are illiterate.


By the early ’80s, Indians had begun to stare at the TV set and Doordarshan (DD), which in those days were one and the same thing. Government-run DD could produce a Krishi Darshan. So the TV set was respectfully draped in a table cloth and admired as an object of art. By the mid-1980s, DD’s sponsored programme brought television to life for the first time; Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi,Buniyaad. This was the golden age of Indian television.

In 1991, DD broadcast the Gulf War, CNN’s Peter Arnett went live from Baghdad and within a year, our TV screen, like the Iraqi capital, exploded into action. So much so, that in 1998, Indians watched a very different “Desert Storm”, in Sharjah, courtesy Sachin Tendulkar.

The economic reforms of 1991, and the liberalised access to communication technology, allowed foreign media companies entry into the country and Indian companies’ entry into television. There are now over 800 licensed channels — there was one in 1991 — with every genre of programming and some we didn’t know: entertainment, music, sports, news, lifestyle, spirituality, property, etc. The first 24×7 news channel began in 1998; by 2014 there were 400 and counting in more than 15 languages.

Content has adapted, accordingly. When it began in the early and mid nineties, TV was a liberated, cosmopolitan space. It targeted the urban, English-Indian with American and British serials.

Rapid satellite and cable penetration into the heart of India by the late ’90s, saw TV fiction move away from daring urban dramas like Tara, Hasratein (1994) or Saans (1998), to the K serials (2000 onwards) of the joint Hindu parivar where all that women wanted was the family. Overnight, saas-bahus appeared everywhere as competition drove channels to imitate Kyunki, Kahani, Kasautii, thereby reducing viewing choices.

Equally, as the aam aadmi gained access to TV and the BJP’s “India Shining” lost lustre. Today, the demographic dividend has driven TV fiction towards a younger generation but with the parivar very much intact.

If TV preserved India’s culture, it also reflected the aspirations of an increasingly young India in the era of economic growth. Captain Vikram Batra spoke for millions when he echoed Pepsi’s Yeh Dil Maange More! (1998). The reality/ talent hunt was TV’s response. It may have begun with Zee’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and Sony’s Boogie Woogie, but it was personified in Kaun Banega Crorepati (2000). We now have numerous song and dance competitions and, of course, Bigg Boss.

In the south, Asianet, Sun, Eenadu etc., had news and current affairs before Star News was born in 1998 as a 24×7 news channel, (Aaj Tak became one in 2000). And with it were born news stars led undoubtedly by Barkha Dutt and the likes of Rajat Sharma and Rajdeep Sardesai, who swapped print for the picture tube.

Today, it’s all the rage with a new channel launching almost daily, worryingly by those who have money to spare: chit fund owners, builders, political parties and, of course, industry (Reliance owns CNN News 18). It’s a conflict zone with loud, chaotic battles over irreconcilable differences of ideology, caste, creed and religion. However, the spread of news TV across the country has given voice to a thousand opinions in every language and in every region, making it, perhaps, a truly democratic arena where everyone and everything can be challenged or put on media trial.


The history of radio broadcast started in India with the setting up of a private radio service in Chennai, in the year 1924. In that same year, British government gave license to the Indian Broadcasting Company, to launch Radio stations in Mumbai and Kolkata. Later as the company became bankrupt, the government took possession of the transmitters and began its operations as the Indian State Broadcasting Corporation. In the year 1936, it was renamed All India Radio (AIR) and the Department of Communications managed it entirely. After independence, All India Radio was converted into a separate Department. All India Radio has five regional headquarters in New Delhi, for the North Zone; in Kolkata, for the East Zone; in Guwahati, for the North-East Zone, in Mumbai, for the West Zone; and in Chennai, for the South Zone. In the year 1957, All India Radio was renamed Akashvani, which is controlled by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

During the period of independence only a mere 6 radio stations existed through out the country. But during the late 1990s, the network of All India Radio extended to almost 146 AM stations. Moreover the Integrated North-East Service focused on reaching to the population in northeast India. All India Radio offers programmes in English, Hindi and numerous regional and local languages. In the year 1967, Commercial Radio services started in India. The initiative was taken by Vividh Bharati and Commercial Service, from the headquarters in Mumbai. Vividh Bharati accumulated revenues from widespread sponsorships and advertisements. During the mid-1990s, broadcasting was carried on from 31 AM and FM stations.

By 1994, there were around 85 FM stations and 73 short wave stations that linked the whole nation. Between 1970 and 1994, the amount of radio receivers increased manifold, almost five times. From the initial 14 million, the number increased to a staggering 65 million. The broadcast services from foreign countries are provided by the External Services Division of All India Radio. Almost 70 hours of news, entertainment programmes were broadcasted in 1994 in various languages with the help of 32 shortwave transmitters.

After Independence, Indian radio was regarded as a vital medium of networking and communication, mainly because of the lack of any other mediums. All the major national affairs and social events were transmitted through radio. Indian radio played a significant role in social integration of the entire nation. All India Radio mainly focused on development of a national consciousness as well as over all National integration. Programming was organised and created keeping in mind the solitary purpose of national political integration. This supported in prevailing over the imperative crisis of political instability, which was created after the Independence. Thus political enhancement and progressive nation building efforts were aided by the transmission of planned broadcasts.

All India Radio also provided assistance in enhancing the economic condition of the country. Indian radio was particularly designed and programmed to provide support to the procedure of social improvement, which was a vital pre-requisite of economic enhancement. The leading development beliefs of the time analysed the problems and hindrances in development as the primary ones in the developing nations. The function of broadcasting paved a way for the surge of modern concepts. Later, with the modernisation of the country, television was introduced and broadcasting achieved new status. But by then, radio had become a veteran medium in India. Diverse programmes including entertainment and melodious songs were also transmitted nationwide. Akashvani or All India Radio still stands as one of the biggest radio networks around the globe.

Satellite Invasion

When the Gulf war broke out, there erupted in India an uncontrollable desire among the nation’s intelligentsia – bureaucrats, teachers, lawyers and journalists – to view the ups and downs of the Gulf war. They wanted hour-by-hour, blow-by-blow coverage of the “mother of battles” – US-led allies fighting Iraq’s Saddam Hussain. Only CNN could deliver this. So the government allowed an unrestricted, uncontrolled entry of CNN into the country. But this irreversibly opened the air waves for other satellite TV companies to gain easy access to the Indian market.

Actually, by the time CNN arrived, Doordarshan, India’s government run TV, was already aping what the foreign televisions offered as popular fare, especially the salacious and lustful shows. For years, Doordarshan had gradually lowered its standards and left a warm nesting chamber for more exciting programming. With a few exceptions – like the successful Ramayana series – viewers were weaned off the traditional sensitive socio-religious dramas.

Along with CNN, viewers rushed to embrace the new STAR TV channels like STAR Plus and MTV, England’s BBC followed with its new Asian program. Even conservative folks had been swept off their feet by these programs running for hours every day.

Star TV beamed down its programs through a satellite called Asia-Sat I owned jointly by the Chinese Government, the British Cable and Wireless Company and the Hutchison Whomon, a Hong Kong-based conglomerate.

The satellite television programs became so overpowering in their influence that they dominated every aspect of the life of an Indian. Housewives discussed every episode of the popular soap operas, aired nightly.

Serious concern was expressed at an international seminar held about the “cultural and civilization threats” satellite television are posing to Third World countries. Sponsored by the Indian Institute of Mass Communication the seminar advised the governments of these countries to immediately modernize their indigenous television programs to win back the viewers from the foreign shows and thereby save them from culturally damaging values.

Programming aside, what no one was prepared to abate was the epidemic spread of cable TV customers across India. India Today, [November 15, 1992] a popular fortnightly, claimed that the phenomenal response to Star TV had escalated from 412,000 urban household in January 1922 to 1,282,000 in November. Another newspaper, Indian Express, estimated there were about 1,400,000 cable viewers in the country. Star TV authorities were so enthralled by the response to their programs that they were sure that their audience would cross the two million mark in urban areas.

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