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History of Mass Media in India

Indian Media of 21st century consist different types of mass communications: television, radio, cinema, newspapers, magazines, and Internet based Web sites/portals, Mobile apps, etc. India’s media was active and popular since the late 18th century with print started in 1780, radio broadcasting initiated in 1927, and the screening of Auguste and Louis Lumière moving pictures in Bombay initiated during the July of 1895. It is among the oldest and largest media of the world. Indus Media has been free and independent throughout most of its history, even before establishment of a large empire by Ashoka the so great on foundations of chanakya politics, righteousness, openness, morality and spirituality.

In roots of open-media, vedas and upanishads should be a testimony to simplistic and transparent lifestyles its ancestors practiced and preached in the sub-continent and globally. In the new entertainment world, managed capitalistic paid media with primary focus on TRP-ROI based corporate profits, social and human exploitation are biggest threats to nations, industries, workers, democracies, civil societies and all living spices at large.

Despite 24/7 surveillance of commoners and snooping of the royals to save crooks of 21st century, the period of emergency (1975–1977) was the only brief period when India’s media was reported to have faced with potential government retribution, officially. Though this modern and digital media independence is for whom, by whom and of whom will remain a big constant question thanks to proliferation promoted by cronies, unless all revolting voices are mass-terminated somehow via some glorified uncle’s #LittleBoy II or #TinyVirus, one fine day!

This full-continent (why sub-?) consumed 99 million newspaper copies as of 2007 – making it the second largest market in the world for newspapers. In 2014, Indian TV industry derived the major share of its profits from advertising segment and rest from subscription. By 2009, the Indian continent had a total of 81,000,000 Internet users – comprising 7% of the continent’s population, and 7,570,000 people in India also had access to broadband Internet as of 2010 – making it the 11th largest country in the world in terms of broadband Internet users. As of 2009, India is among the 4th largest television broadcast stations in the world with nearly 1,400 stations. Snapshot of evolution of media in India is as below:

Mass media in India – Bengal: The Bengal Gazette was started by James Augustus Hicky in 1780. The Gazette, a two-sheet newspaper, specialised in writing on the private lives of the Sahibs of the Company. He dared even to mount scurrilous attacks on the Governor-General, Warren Hastings’, wife, which soon landed “the late printer to the Honourable Company” in trouble.

Hicky was sentenced to a 4 months jail term and Rs.500 fine, which did not deter him. After a bitter attack on the Governor-General and the Chief Justice, Hicky was sentenced to one year in prison and fined Rs.5,000, which finally drove him to penury. These were the first tentative steps of journalism in India.

Mass media in India – Calcutta: B.Messink and Peter Reed were pliant publishers of the India Gazette, unlike their infamous predecessor. The colonial establishment started the Calcutta Gazette. It was followed by another private initiative the Bengal Journal. The Oriental Magazine of Calcutta Amusement, a monthly magazine made it four weekly newspapers and one monthly magazine published from Calcutta, now Kolkata.

Mass media in India – Madras Chennai: The Madras Courier was started in 1785 in the southern stronghold of Madras, which is now called Chennai. Richard Johnson, its founder, was a government printer. Madras got its second newspaper when, in 1791, Hugh Boyd, who was the editor of the Courier quit and founded the Hurkaru. Tragically for the paper, it ceased publication when Boyd passed away within a year of its founding.

It was only in 1795 that competitors to the Courier emerged with the founding of the Madras Gazette followed by the India Herald. The latter was an “unauthorised” publication, which led to the deportation of its founder Humphreys. The Madras Courier was designated the purveyor of official information in the Presidency.

In 1878, The Hindu was founded, and played a vital role in promoting the cause of Indian independence from the colonial yoke. It’s founder, Kasturi Ranga Iyengar, was a lawyer, and his son, K Srinivasan assumed editorship of this pioneering newspaper during for the first half of the 20th century. Today this paper enjoys the highest circulation in South India, and is among the top five nationally.

Mass media in India – Bombay: Bombay, now Mumbai, surprisingly was a late starter – The Bombay Herald came into existence in 1789. Significantly, a year later a paper called the Courier started carrying advertisements in Gujarati.

The first media merger of sorts: The Bombay Gazette, which was started in 1791, merged with the Bombay Herald the following year. Like the Madras Courier, this new entity was recognised as the publication to carry “official notifications and advertisements”.

‘A Chronicle of Media and the State’, by Jeebesh Bagchi in the Sarai Reader 2001 is a handy timeline on the role of the state in the development of media in India for more than a century.

Bagchi divides the timeline into three ‘ages’. The Age of Formulation, which starts with the Indian Telegraph Act in 1885 and ends with the Report of the Sub-Committee on Communication, National Planning Committee in 1948.

State of Modern Mass Media: After Independence, the Indian media had evolved, realigned and reinvented itself to a large extent, and now-a-days you can see a clear division between commercial and aesthetic expressions of our Media Giants, sometimes arbitrary. Modern mass communication media is poles apart relative to any aesthetic feeling: vulgarity and arrogance nullify any hypothesis of meaning. Aesthetics is the more powerful answer to violence of modern mass communication. Today’s mass communication media seems to elude every determination, exposing its message to all possible variants, it finishes to abolish it. Goal of mass communication is always the unbiased dissipation of any content, and the world wide web is no exception, and surely is the most efficient media tool unless cronies also takes over it systematically. When we say people and groups lack integrity, we mean that they’re corrupt and deceitful, despite their glowing skin, wealth, societal appeal, oratory, cult or whatever!

Thanks to fame games, social media exploitation, FDI / TRP for investments, branding, political abuse of branded journalists, media bias towards ruling class, paid indoctrination, corporatization – the distinction between areas like movie-making, daily opera shows and popular mass media are now fully blurred. It’s also very interesting to observe how the old media are becoming more and more permeable to blogs and D.I.Y. information. This phenomenon is not due to a fascination in more democratic information sources. On the contrary – the pressure is rising due to the growth of the eyes’ (cameras and new digital devices) that are watching the same events that mainstream media are reporting to us: the possibility of being uncovered are too many and broadcast journalists are forced to tell the truth (or at least a plausible version of it).

As a consequence, independent blogs (without covert support of paid media or political gangs of any color) have become the major source of news and information about many global affairs. We also have to consider that bloggers & digital writers are often the only real journalists, as they (at their own risk) provide independent news in countries where the mainstream media is censored, biased or under control.

References & Sources: Various online / offline publications, comments and articles.