How big is FM radio in India


Dr. Nadja-Christina Schneider

Dr. Nadja-Christina Schneider

Prof. Dr. Nadja-Christina Schneider is a South Asian scholar and has been a junior professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin since 2009. In her research and teaching, she focuses on the media and social processes in India.

Between globalization, differentiation and threatened credibility

India's media landscape is diverse. On the one hand, this is due to the size of the country and, on the other hand, to regional, linguistic and socio-cultural differences. In addition to television and radio, social media have developed rapidly in recent years and media usage has changed. A newspaper crisis like the one in the USA or Europe does not seem to be in sight so far. However, there are factors that threaten the credibility of the Indian media.

Newsstand in New Delhi
Photo: Stefan Mentschel

India is often characterized by its strong social contrasts. When it comes to the supply and use of media and communication technologies, the country shows extremely different, albeit very high levels of development. However, the current trends no longer necessarily correspond to the assumption of a strong urban-rural divide or the idea that television and radio are more the central media for small towns and rural regions, whereas the internet and print media are primarily urban and more privileged Audience. Due to the rapid growth in mobile communications, the continuous expansion of the Internet and, last but not least, the regional language differentiation and localization of print media, the focus is increasingly shifting away from the urban centers to the new regional future markets of the Indian media industry.

Increasing medialization of society

Due to the size of the country and the regional, linguistic and socio-cultural differences alone, the Indian media landscape is uniquely diverse. In addition to television, the press and radio, the Internet and, in particular, the mobile communications sector have also been booming in India for several years. The multilingual television landscape is hardly manageable. According to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, there are 786 licensed private satellite channels nationwide, around half of them in the news sector (as of January 31, 2014). The new offers in the area of ​​Internet television and the more than 20 public television channels are not yet included in this.

This development is primarily related to the economic liberalization since the mid-1980s and early 1990s. With it, the consumer-oriented market economy found its way into India, from which the media not only benefit, but which they also play a key role in shaping. Since then, accelerated processes of mediation can be observed in such diverse areas of society as politics, the search for a partner and / or contemporary art. This means that the conditions of communication and the social processes based on them have fundamentally changed in India over the past few years and decades.

This change can be observed particularly well in events that lead to a communicative concentration and the emergence of topic-related publics. An example of this is the anti-corruption movement of 2011 and the media-effective hunger strike by activist Anna Hazare. The movement later led to the formation of a new political party, the Aam Aadmi Party (analogously: party of the common people), the emergence of which is closely interwoven with the manifestations of medialized politics and democracy in India. Another example is the social debate about sexual violence against women in India as a result of the group rape of a student in the capital Delhi in December 2012 and the resulting urban protests.

The media-critical discussion in India was reignited at both events, because the role of news television, which has to provide "new" images and stories around the clock, was the subject of controversial discussion. On the one hand the breathlessness of the often garish reporting is lamented. On the other hand, especially in the context of the debate on sexual violence and women's rights, it was positively emphasized that television functions as an informative medium here and has significantly promoted the discussion far beyond the scope of the event.

Growing role of social media

While television continues to shape the media landscape, the Internet and the mobile communications industry are also developing at an unexpectedly high rate for many. Against the background of the wave of protests in the Arab world, observers in the Indian anti-corruption movement also believed signs of one Social media spring or Tahrir Square moment to have recognized. But just as the protests in the Arab world were not triggered by new media technologies, this media-centered notion of sudden social and political change cannot be applied to India.

However, it is undisputed that media practices are changing and that social media are now playing a very important role in the discussion and information of a growing number of people in India, especially in the organization and coordination of protests. The sociologist Saskia Sassen has the term for the mutual constitution of new protest spaces on the Internet and the physical locations of new protest movements Global Street (analogously: road becoming global). However, many observers question whether this process in India actually creates new spaces of articulation and action for those groups that have not or hardly been represented in political processes.

Doordarshan: Catalyst of the consumer-oriented market economy

Television was introduced as a state monopoly in India in 1959 and the national television authority and the Hindi-language television station of the same name Doordarshan was under the control of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting until the 1990s. In 1995, following long-standing calls for greater autonomy for the broadcasting sector, the Indian Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment that two years later established an autonomous public broadcasting corporation (Prasar Bharati or Broadcasting Corporation of India) led.

Doordarshan was primarily designed to achieve development-oriented goals and played an important role in the popularization of government development and education programs until the early 1980s. For a long time, however, television remained a slowly growing medium.

That changed only from 1982 onwards. The main reason for this was the introduction of family-oriented entertainment programs. In particular, the then Congress Party government expected new television series to increase the integration of fragmented Indian society into the national community presented. At the same time, it was hoped that the audience would adopt the protagonists' "development-conducive" attitudes. The model for this was Latin American telenovelas, which were conceived as an example for the theory of social learning. The "development spurt" was shown above all in the skyrocketing number of viewers and huge sales of new televisions. Between 1980 and 1985 alone, the number of devices sold rose from two to five million.

Produced until 1987 Doordarshan 40 series based on the pattern of telenovelas and thus reached more than 50 million viewers in some cases. The increasing consumer orientation of the storylines, however, increasingly displaced the didactic component. Sponsorship and advertising promoted this development. The triumph of the market economy in India is thus inseparable from the success of the entertainment series Doordarshan linked and began long before the introduction of private television.

Rise of private cable and satellite television

Another significant turning point came in 1991 when live coverage of the second Gulf War heralded the dawn of the transnational television age. In India too, viewers were gripped by the idea of ​​being able to participate "live" in the action, and Doordarshan was now confronted with the challenge of the more news-oriented cable and satellite television. In 1991 Rupert Murdoch's satellite company STAR TV started broadcasting from Hong Kong to India and was well received there from the start. A little later, Indian cable providers also got access to the STAR programs, which further increased their distribution.

STAR TV initially only broadcasted in English, but the expansion of regional-language television was not long in coming. ZEE TV did pioneering work for the private Hindi broadcasters and was at the same time a driving force in the spread of cable television. The race to catch up for quotas and advertising revenue has Doordarshan Mastered well through fundamental program reforms in the following years and was able to win over new audiences not least through its own satellite channels in Indian regional languages.

At the beginning of the 2000s, the Indian state again showed a stronger will to regulate in favor of the national media industry. In 2003, for example, a new law was passed according to which the majority of foreign news channels broadcasting via satellite to India had to be transferred to Indian partner companies. Since this included both editorial and operational control over the broadcasters, the intention was to stop the global process of "Murdochization", at least in this area. For Murdoch, this meant that he had to find an Indian partner to take over the majority stake (74 percent) in his station STAR News and in the media company within a short space of time ABP Group (Anandabazar Patrika) from West Bengal also found. Since the beginning of media globalization and the differentiation of the media landscape in the 1990s, the major press houses in the country have shown a keen interest in television and generally in anchoring their companies across industries.

In 2013 the Indian government increased the amount of foreign direct investment allowed in the telecommunications sector to 49 percent, but an analogous decision was still pending in early 2014 in the areas of television, radio and press classified as "sensitive". In view of increasing competition, however, representatives of private television and radio broadcasters as well as the press have repeatedly called for greater opening of the media sector in recent years. This is how the interest group argues Indian Newspaper Societythat foreign investor participation of up to 49 percent in the news and current affairs category and up to 100 percent in the specialized magazines and facsimile editions of foreign newspapers could bring new momentum to the Indian newspaper market.

No newspaper crisis in sight (yet): The Indian daily press

Newsstand in New Delhi
Photo: Stefan Mentschel

In view of the profound changes in the media, it is remarkable that the market for the "old" medium of newspapers in India is still growing. So far there are hardly any signs of a newspaper crisis like the one in the USA and Europe. As a result, the Indian newspaper market is also interesting for foreign investors, because India has advanced to become the world's largest future market for English-language media. So it is no longer the prestigious newspapers from the USA or England that can boast the largest circulation figures in the English-language segment. At the top today is the one that was founded in Bombay in 1838 (since 1996: Mumbai) and is now very regionally differentiated Times of India. The engine of this hitherto unchecked press growth are however the Indian-language newspapers, which currently achieve their highest circulation and readership figures in the publication languages ​​Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil and Marathi.

In addition to the breakthrough in product advertising in the regional language, two factors in particular are decisive for the unrestrained newspaper growth: the regional language differentiation of offers and the localization of editorial offices and newspaper content. It was thanks to market research that the Indian-language press first saw its potential in the late 1970s. In particular, the results of the second National Readership Survey (NRS) from 1978 were important for this. In the years that followed, the readership grew many times over, initially mainly in the cities, but as early as the 1980s there was intense thought about the potential in less urbanized or rural areas.

In the meantime there is an interesting discussion going on in India about the question of whether the "regional represents the new national" in the press sector. Some observers are convinced that newspapers concentrate even more on small towns and rural areas and so-called there Local reader communities would have to form in order to avert the risk of marginalization through digital media. Robin Jeffrey, on the other hand, is more optimistic about the future prospects of the print media in India. The author of the much-cited book India's Newspaper Revolution (2000) assumes that at least another decade will pass before a decline in newspaper readership can be expected. What is certain, however, is that the newspaper market in the metropolises is now considered saturated and, due to the years of price wars between the publishing houses, not very profitable.

Increasingly diverse radio landscape

Some newspaper houses such as the Times group have also been pioneers in the radio sector over the past two decades. They used the studios and technical equipment of the state radio station All India Radio, during which employees made sure that Times FM or Radio Mid Day strictly adhered to the terms of the contract. The background to this was the long hesitation of the Indian state to promote deregulation in the area of ​​radio as well. A few broadcasting slots that were first broadcast on the VHF frequencies in 1994 in metropolitan areas All India Radio admitted, went exclusively to private companies that were banned from broadcasting news. Radio licenses were only released at the end of the 1990s, although the complex award process soon led to disillusionment among many interested parties.

Regardless of this, a lot has also happened in the radio sector in recent years. Numerous private broadcasters, including satellite and Internet broadcasters, have been added and enrich India's radio landscape. In contrast, it was not until the end of 2006 that the long-term efforts of non-profit organizations to release licenses for the Community radio broadcasting, the idea of ​​a local radio for smaller communities and special interest groups. The majority of the 163 admitted by early 2014 Community radios however, are university or college channels.

Media credibility is at stake

While the German discussion about the newspaper crisis often refers to the threat posed by digital media offers, a few observers see the main reason for this in the intellectual crisis, not only, but above all, the middle class. Some critics in India feel the same way, who consider neither the question of technology nor of media formats to be nearly as decisive for the future of newspapers and the media in general as the question of the point of view they take. This is what determines the credibility and relevance that a newspaper or television station has for its audience.

Much of the appreciation for the Indian press results from the preeminent role it has played in the struggle for independence. Today, however, it is less the names of newspapers and magazines, but rather those of individual media workers, that stand for courageous and enlightening journalism in India - although they often have to accept personal disadvantages or even high risks. One example is the journalist Tongam Rina from Arunachal Pradesh in the north-east of the country, who was awarded the Leipzig Media Prize in 2013 for her reports on corruption cases and environmental scandals. In her home country, however, she was threatened for years because of her critical reporting, and her opponents did not shy away from an assassination attempt: In June 2012, assassins shot dead in front of the newspaper's editorial building Arunachal Times in Itanagar on Tongam Rina and seriously injured her.

The attacks on journalists have increased recently. Coupled with several cases of internet censorship by authorities, this has sparked a new debate on the situation of freedom of expression and media in India.

However, this is also threatened by a phenomenon that can be described as market censorship, i.e., conspicuously business-friendly reporting by the established daily and weekly press. In the worst case, it is visibly reluctant to report on scandalous cases of attempts by large commercial companies to exert influence on the media and politics.In this context, the case of the lobbyist Niira Radia, from which numerous recorded telephone calls were made public at the end of 2010, caused a stir. On the so-called Radia tapes Among other things, one could hear how the lobbyist coordinated the tenor of journalistic reporting on certain political developments with influential media representatives. The print media initially held back with reports on the scandal. It was only when more and more details became public via social media such as Twitter and Facebook and the debate was already in full swing that major newspapers and television stations followed suit.

Even if there will certainly never be a lack of outstanding examples of critical and committed journalism in the diverse Indian media landscape, the credibility of the media is always at stake when cases of paid content, distorted representations, attempted influence or generally the negative ones The effects of increased market censorship due to media globalization are increasingly shaping the perception of the print media and television in India.