Vernacular Press 1800-1901
Vernacular Press 1901-2007
The Bengali Press
The Hindi Press
The Marathi Press
The Malyalam Press
The Telegu Press
The Urdu Press
The turning point
It is impossible to ascertain many things about the regional language newspapers in India. For example, is the newspaper Industry young or old? There is no way to say... the history of Indian Newspapers reaches far back into the past, to the time of Moghuls before the Company came to Indian shores, who introduced news carriers to India. However, even today, new ideas and editorial policies continue to show up, ensuring that the industry is very much blooming even after many newspapers have been around for over a hundred and fifty years. Is the industry thriving or on the way out? People are undoubtedly reading smaller and smaller fractions of newspapers, and yet, newspapers are printing and distributing increasing amounts of matter. It is vital to get a sense of why the Indian press is different from those in other countries.
Unique features of the Indian press
# Newspapers compete only with newspapers of the same language, there are many newspapers in many Indian languages, that all started in the pre-independance era. An industry with such a diversity in its beggenings will have a rapid growth. Newspapers in India are overproduced.
# The most important feature of the Indian newspaper industry is, simply put - unity in diversity. Indian regional language newspapers work together, focus on the same issues, and still maintain a sense of unity sixty years after they helped us gain our freedom.
# The Indian press has grown rapidly, but has not grown enough. Many areas remain backward, and in terms of say technology, or professionalism, the Indian Press still has a lot of scope for growth.
# Despite having the most circulated newspapers in the world, according to UNESCO figures, the circulation per head of population in India is among the lowest for any country in the world. Which means there is scope for tremendous growth.
# From the historical point of view, a lot of newspapers have seen the country to changes in the poilitical and economic systems, survived from the beggening to the end of the Independance struggle... this indicates the stability of the press, it is not possible for the Indian press not to grow.
# Most importantly, it is still relatively easy to start a newspaper. New newspapers continue to hit the stands at a steady rate. Most Indian newspapers are owned and run by Individuals. The next largest number by societies and associations.
"In the early portion of its career, the Indian press had been left to follow its own courses and no other check than that which the law of libel imposed. The character of the papers of early days sufficiently shows that the indulgence was abused, and that, while they were useless as vehicles of information of any value, they were filled with indecorous attacks upon private life and ignorant censures of public measures"
# Imagine, in the early nineteenth centure, the Indian Press was not even two decades old, the newspapers were shoddy and just plain bad, and yet, the exchange of news between Calcutta and Bombay was something that scared the company. The Governor General himself had to step in during the second Mahratha war asking newspapers like the India Gazette and the Bengal Harakuru asking them not to publish naval info or ongoings in the government. Soon, however, the government would have to depend upon the newspapers because they brought together the news better than any government agency.
# Adam's Press ordinance, held the press responsible for much the same things as the letter from the Governer general. It basically allowed for "intelligence solely of a commercial nature." The commercialisation of news is considered to be a big problem now a days, but back then, it was very important to unify the country economically. The poverty, the illetracy and the standard of living was outright inhuman. Trade was promoted through advertising in these early newspapers, and this, as a whole, lead to economic unification of India, something vital for the Independance struggle.
# This was India before freedom, before even home rule was an idea. Raja Ram Mohun Roy's Mirat-ul-Akhbar tried to "communicate to the rulers a knowledge of the real situation of their subjects ad make the subjects acquainted with the established laws and customs of their rulers; that the rulers may more readily find an opportunity of granting relief to the people, and the people may be put in posession of the means of obtaining protection and redress of their rulers". This clearly shows that back then, the British rule paled as a problem in front of all the other social atrocities.
# The freedom of the Press itself, had to be achieved before freedom for the country could be achieved. Whether or not the press should be given freedom was discussed at length in the British Parliament. They were afraid that anti-Raj sentiments would spread across the country if newspapers were allowed to run amock. However, the newspapers of those times were concenterating on other, more pressing issues. Issues like widow re-marriage, girl child education, the practice of sati, nad the supression of thuggee, a practice of ritual murder by dacoits.
# For a short span of time, the British government and the Indian press worked together to heavily reform the Indian society. The foundations for the reforms were laid by the publications of Raja Ram Mohun Roy, where social issues were discussed at length. Lord Bentinck, saw the scope for social reform through the agency of newspapers, and relaxed regulations on the press. Lord Bentinck took the step of abolishing Sati, and openly acknowledged Raja Ram Mohun Roy's contribution.
# Lord Bentinck's liberal regime spawned many new newspapers. In 1820, sixteen Indian language newspapers were published.
Dailies: Prabhakar, Chandroday, Mahajan Darpan
Bi-Weekly: Chandrika, Rasaraj
Weekly: Gyanddarpan, Bangdut, Sadhurajan, Gyan Sancharini, Rasasaguev, Rangpur Bartabahu, Rashmudgar
Monthly: Tatwa Bodhini
# In 1832, Bombay darpan, an Anglo-Marathi weekly asked the government for subscriptions and support. This showed a certain amount of trust in the government, and Sir Charles Metcalfe, who had an illustrious career, introduced heavy social reforms. He was against the unnecessary censure of the press, despite the growing dissatisfaction with the regime. He can be said to have freed the press of India, however he made English the official language. He said "I take it as universally granted that the press ought to be free, subject, of course to the laws, provided it be not dangerous to the stability of out Indian Empire"
# Some papers, like the Chandrika, were damaging to India in the liberal phase of the early press, by supporting acts such as Sati. Between 1800 and 1850, the press experienced a state of steady growth, helped by the liberal administration, that saw more good than harm coming out of the press.
# This progress was halted by the rebellion of 1857. Although the contribution of the press to bringing about the rebellion itself was very little, the press was blamed heavily for it. Things changed after that, the Persian and Urdu press were outspoken in their support for the rebellion, the English newspapers spoke strongly against it, there were many Indians in high places all in for the Raj, and the newspapers in the north west provinces maintained a moderate tone.
# The British government reacted strongly. They thought the press had "sown sedition" in "the natives" and therefore promulgated what is known as the "gagging act" of Lord Canning. Many cases were filed against the press for incitement of the rebellion. In retrospect, it is impossible to imagine the feelings of those behind the newspapers who actually believed that they were cause for the revolution without knowing it!
# "A free press and the domination of strangers are things which are quite incompatible and which cannot long exist together" -Sir Thomas Monroe
# The Gagging Act was imposed mostly in Bengal. Many Urdu Newspapers died out. Bombay newspapers defended India from the attacks of the English press. All this, must be seen as normal everyday competition we see in the papers today... in terms of news angles and approaches. It is sudden and immideate only in retrospect, in the time period, the going was really slow.
# The Amrita Bazaar Patrika, at this time, focused on uplifting the masses from slave-like existance. "They are more dead than alive, and need to be roused from their slumber. Our language has, therefore, to be loud and penetrating."
# By 1870, the press was growing rapidly.
Indian language newspapers in Bombay: 62
North West privinces, Oudh and Central Provinces: 60
# The sudden growth of the Indian Press scared the British because there was so much in it that they could not understand. Condensing their feelings in a few words is difficult, but imagine ruling a country where your subjects speak in twenty different native languages and circulate newspapers in these languages, and exchange ideas and opinions in these languages, and all you know is English, and many of the said natives do not know your language. It is understandable that the Indian press had a reputation for passing about motifs and symbols right under the noses of the Raj. It is surprising that the Raj survived for such a long time under such circumstances, they wouldn't have, if it were not for the extensive restrictions they placed on the press.
# 1879 Sir Ashley Eden, passed the Vernacular Press act, at a conference attended by one Indian Maharaja, Jotindra Mohan Tagore, who supported it. The act treated English Newspapers differently from regional language papers, and allowed for excessive censorship and control over the papers. It was recieved with heavy criticism by the Press. Somehow, this act seems to be very important, because it changed forever the tone of the regional press, and was the turning point in the history of India.
# One year later, by 1880, Buckland, who was the Press Comissioner under the Vernacular Press act wrote "although some improvement had taken place in the style and language of Vernacular papers since the introduction of the Vernacular press act, their general tone was one of opposition to Government and government measures.
# During this period, newspapers spread to all regions, and newspapers were published in many languages, including Persian and Oriya. This information is vital, because newspapers all across the country would in the coming decades focus on the growing sense of nationalism brought out forst regionally, and then on a larger scale. Socially, politically, morally, and economically, India took a large growth spurt in the following fifty years, through the agency of the press.
# Vishnu Krishna chiplonkar started the Kesari and this was later taken over by Bal Ganghadhar Tilak. Newspapers at this time were compared to nightwatchmen, the government was in constant fear of the public opinion, and the newspapers were nurturing the public opinion.
# The focus, was not on the backwardness of the Indian society itself, but on various laws and procedures of the British administration. The ryotwari system of land tenure, the destriction of municipal and judicial institutions, the grinding taxation, the costly machinary of the government, the extripation of the local industry, and of native aristocracy, these were the issues tackled by the press.
# The newspapers, themselves, were not at all careful in how they accumalated and presented matter, and the Mahratta was involved in a defamation suit. Tilak and Agarker were imprisoned for four months, but this only brought about public sympathy.
# The Deccan Education Society was started by Tilak, Namjoshi, Apte and Agarkar. Tilak moved away from the society, and focused on political freedom instead of social reform. Inspired by the Amrita Bazaar Patrika, he started a campaign against the age of consent bill.
# Within the press, for the first time ever, there were parallel and alternate views, sometimes even contradictory, Tilak and Gokhle, for example, went off in two seperate directions. The relations between the Congress and the Social Conference was sour. Things changed in the new century, after Ranade's death.
# The Kesari reflected Tilak's aggressive Nationalism. The Dnyan Prakash became a daily newspaper and was known for its constructive criticism of news and views. Gokhle edited the Sudharak, an Anglo-Marathi newspaper from Poona.
# Gokhle supported the freedom of the press, and in 1903, he opposed the amendment of the Official Secrets Act of 1889. Civil matters would be placed at par with military operations by the act, and this would affect heavily the governance reporting of the news papers. In 1907, Gokhle again opposed the seditious meeting bull. all these were proposed to curb the growing agitation.
# Tilak died on August 1, 1920, after giving many electrifying speeches on Home Rule, and one day later, Gandhi launched his non-cooperation movement.
# One English paper, must be mentioned here, the Young India, published by Gandhi... Mahatma Gandhi was a journalist, few people know of this act. He edited the greatest weeklies the world has ever known. He published no advertisements, and at the same time, did not allow the newspapers to run at a loss. No paper has till then, or since, been published like this. He published the Indian Opinion in Enlgihs, Tamil and Gujrathi, sometimes, manually running the printing press himself. In Young India of July 2, 1925, he wrote "I have taken up journalism not for its sake but merely as an aid to what I have concieved as my mission in life."
# It was a state of turmoil and agitation from then on. The regional newspapers survived two world wars, and internal resistance against eh government and many phases of the freedom movemet. Malhanlal Chaturvedi must be mentioned here as a forceful journalist amongst editors of Hindi newspapers in the central provinces. The Sandesh from Nagpur and from Bombay flourished under AB Kolhatkar's editorship. The Maharashtrian was started in Nagpur by GA Ogale. The Milap popped up in Lahore and later moved to Delhi. How much the press contributed to the freedom struggle is anybodies guess, but it was vital, because its very nature had changed. It called for such radical action, and the standards of journalism were stretched so much to meet the need for the hour, that the press took a detour for a span of thrity years, and was no longer the press, but isntead an agency to spread the struggle.
# The long and persistant prosecution of the press came to an end with the achievement of Independace. What came next was really the golden age of the Indian Press. It already had a long history, strong foundations, and the Nation was young, and the future, bright.
# The press had been growing, in spite of limitations (all the machinary was imported and costly, distribution channels not well established, readership shifting and unsteady). The growth was uneven. The rate of growth of the newspapers, however, corresponded to the growth of literacy, economy and communications technology.
# Major efforts were taken post Independance to help the press grow, the Press Commission (1952-54) published a report which recomended the developement of the Indian Press on the basis of diffused ownership, as this would in a sense serve the needs of the Indian democracy.
# The government did nothing to interfere with the freedom of the press, and it is like that till date.
# Post Independace, Neheru playerd a large part in Shaping all thinking about the press, as Gandhi had done before the Independance. He was opposed by powerful sections of the press, but he had mass appeal as he was a product of adult suffrage. He stood for tolerence, asked for an agressive, critical press, and expected the press to have dignity, knowledge and high standards.
# The hang-over of the Raj, a spirit of defiance and of constant railing of the authorities continues till date because of the Press.
# Many times, the authorities of Indpendant India have tried to underrate the importance of the freedom of the press, and to impose restraints in the name of law and order, but this has never been done to a great extent.
# The press in India continues to flourish as the most vibrant amongst all nations, and is the chief source of shaping of public opinion.
# Driven by its commitment to preserve the highest standards in Bengali language and culture, Anandabazar Patrika devised a way to use the complete set of Bengali characters in the word processing software, a decade before Unicode.
# The Anandabazar Patrika, is rightly called the "Voice of Bengal."
# In 1954, the Press Commission report declared Anandabazar Patrika to be the largest circulated newspaper in the country, published from one location.
# Over the years, Anandabazar Patrika has achieved many milestones along the way — it was the first in the east and one of the first in the country to use offset printing.
# Filling up of Niche audiences is seen in new regional language newspapers. Ganashakti is the mouthpiece for the communist Party's Bengal state unit, but has the claim to the best science and technology reporting around.
# Seven years after its launch, figures show an impressive circulation of 2,58,117 copies, making Sangbad Pratidin the third largest Bengali Daily, after ABP and Bartaman. One primary reason for its growth in popularity could be attributed to its strictly unbiased news coverage. It is the only Bengali daily that has a supplement everyday of the week, providing variety and diversity as well as entertainment to its readers.
# Sangbad Pratidin is targetted at the young, upcoming Bengali, who are looking beyond tradition and heritage, in their quest to keep page with the changing times.
Constant efforts are made to improve the quality and content of the news coverage and articles, to provide the ultimate reading satisfaction and maintain contemporarity. The supplements of this paper are very vibrant and popular.
# The Aajkaal is a Bengali newspaper started in 1981, and currently edited by Mr. Ashok Dasgupta. It is a leftist newspaper, but is better known for its excellent standards of sport reporting.
# The Bartaman Patrika has the second largest circulation after ABP in Bengal, and is an anti-establishment paper. The Uttar Banga Sambad is another Bengali paper of importance that has a considerable hold over northern Bengal.
# The Bhaskar group is the largest read newspaper group of India with a total readership of Rs 2.67 crores, as per NRS 2006.
# The Dainkik Bhaskar is as technically advanced as the Sakal. It uses state of the art machinary, and is published all across northern India. Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, Raipur, Bilaspur, Ajmer, Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kota, Sekhawati, Udaipur, Hisar, Panipat, Amritsar, Jalandhar, and Chandigarh.
# Dainik Bhaskar is a part of the 3D syndication, which is a virtual feed from three leading newspapers in India. The other two papers are Divya Bhaskar and DNA.
# Sanmarg, is a Hindi newspaper published from Kolkatta.
# The hindi press as a whole has the largest readership. More newsprint exists today in Hindi than any other language in the world.
# The "Dainik Jagran" has 31 editions and the only daily to print over 200 sub-editions, each one customized in content to the needs of the readers in different geographical areas.
# According to NRS-2005 DAINIK JAGRAN,is the highest read National Daily across all languages (including English) in India with a phenomenal readership of 21.24 Million Readers .
# The 1st Indian publication to cross the 20 million readership mark, is the Dainik Jagran. An ABC certified Net paid Sales of over 2.4 million copies (Source : ABC Jan-Jun 05).
# Rajasthan Patrika is the initiator in the development of 'Journalism in Rajasthan'. It is committed to provide reliable, authentic, and apolitical news, to educate the masses and give voice to issues that concern their lives.
# Samna tried to campaign socially for some causes now, but it does not garner much support now. It started the sons-of-the-soil campaign.
# Shivram Maharaj Atre, and Paranjpe, were principal marathi satirical writers. There have been no significant marathi satirist since them. Bal Thackeray was a satirical cartoonist, but not for a regional newspaper.
# Most Marathi newspapers are socially committed.
! While most newspapers have websites, the Sakal has a blog, and a very interesting one at that. The address is sakalblog.blogspot. The Sakal is in fact, much more tech savvy than even English Language newspapers. It embraces technology like Smartflow and SAP, which both enable to streamline business processes and network a lot of people together.
# The Events Division of the Sakaal Group organizes special events with mass appeal like exhibitions, conferences and seminars. And, to top it all, the Sakaal Group of Publications works for social causes through its instruments like the Sakaal Relief Fund, which is aimed at providing immediate aid to victims of natural disasters, and Madhurangan, which is an exclusive forum for women, to name just two.
# The Sakal was founded by Nanasaheb B Parulekar in 1932. Parulekar was a student who went to the United States, got a doctrate in sociology, married a foreigner, came back to Pune and indulged in social reform activities. He modelled the "Sakal" after leading newspapers in the US.
# Sakal's attitude was so different that it was an innovation in Marathi Press. The paper was taken over by the Sharad Pawar family. Changes were brought about in the layout and design of the paper, and seperate editions were launched in Solapur, Nasik and Mumbai. It is still considered the best Marathi paper.
# Every tier-2 city in Maharashtra has a favorite home newspaper, The Gomantak in Panaji, The Pudhari and Sanchar in Kolhapur, The Sarwamat in Shrirampur, The Tarun Bharat in Belgaum, the Lokmat and daily Deshdhooth in Jalgaon.
# The Malyalam Manorama has a National Identity similiar to that of the Anand Bazaar Patrika.
# Although Malyalam Manorama has been plagued with controversy, and has spurious relations with illegit firms, it has a solid foundation because of its social outreach programmes. The Manorama has sponsored villages where it had no subscribers. It organises cultural programs twice every year to reach out to its readers in Mumbai.
# The Chandrika is a Muslim League newspaper run from Khazaikode.
# The Deshabhimani describes itself like this : "It continues to champion the cause of the common folks - the factory worker, the office goer, the farm labourer, the small businessman, the self-employed. These are, in fact the people who constitute the largest chunk of the consumer market in the state. That's why it wields so much influence with large masses of Kerala's population. To them, Deshabhimani has become a unbreakable habit, a daily ritual, as much as the Malayalee's well-known penchant for a daily morning bath or brushing the teeth."
# The Deshabhimani is a paper known for its Marxists views
# Malabar, Cochin and Travelcore till date have a unique identity, although they were merged together to form the state of Kerla. Each area has its local newspapers, which is a unique feature in Malayalam journalism.
# The Mangalam, the Matrabhumi and the Kerla Kaumudi are other important Kerla Dailies.
# The origin of Telegu Journalism is different from all other language groups.
# Till 1946, Telegu people had no home land, unlike other languages. The core of the telegu clan was Hyderabad, and it was ruled by a Nizam, whose court language was Urdu.
# Some border areas between Maharashtra and Karnataka spoke in Telegu.
# This was the picture till 1956, when the demand for a Telegu speaking state came about with great vigour, Potti Sriramalla started a fast unto death demanding a Telgu speaking state... and died. It was the congress that started dividing responsibilities across the countries by linguistically dividing its chapters. People had a linguistic "national" identity because of this, and wanted a linguistic state. Till that point of time, the government had more pressing problems, like agriculture and poverty. There was a general outcry in the Telegu speaking areas, and riots broke out.
# In the 1920s, the Andhra Prabha and the Andhra Patrika came about.
# The Andhra Prabha belonged to the Indian Express group. The Andhra Patrika was run by a small industrial group (which produced and sold the amrutanjan balm). The offices of both papers, were located in Madras, Chennai.
# When the state of Andhra Pradesh came into existence, Ramoji Rao (a young journalist stationed in Delhi representing the Andhra Prabha and met people deeply studying the working of newspapers) launched Eenadu in Telegu. This is because it came into existance on the newly formed homeland of Andhra Pradesh after the linguistic re-organisation of states. In many ways, the press continued the freedom struggle after India won its Independance.
# The Eenadu had an initial print order of 4000 copies. There was a drive to increase its circulation in the eighteen districts of Andhra Pradesh. Each district headquaters had a correspondant who filed an extensive report.
# Within the first five years, the Eenadu had covered all the Talukas with local tabloid inserts.
# MR. Ramamoorthy Rao appointed 2500 ad solicitors, the job of these 2500 people was to go door to door and educate the rural people about advertising and newspapers. The concept of advertising was alien to the largely illiterate agricultural society of Andra Pradesh. Eenadu carried important Birthday parties, aniversaries, ceremonies and festivals. There was an increase in the social prominance of the people who advertised. All the local editions became self sufficient, and increased local circulation.
# The Eenadu today has 18 editions in AP, and 6 editions outside AP.
# The Eenadu's coverage of the women disgracing drunk men in a villiage by parading them on donkeys lead to the government abolishing country liquor in the state. In 1992, the Eenadu started a full woman's page, which became a popular series.
# The Eenadu wiped out its competition, the Andhra Prabha and the Andhra Patrika. The Eenadu dominated the Telegu journalism scene within twenty five years.
! The Eenadu, in Telegu, means "Today" or "Our Land" according to different translators.
# The Eenadu has a strong influence over its readership, and because of its open criticisms of the government, it is considered to be the de-facto opposition party.
# The Vaartha was a hyperactive hi-tech infotech attempt, initiated in 1996 where editors waited for news to pour in as late as four in the morning. Initially, it was very popular, then all the fuss died down within a year.
# By the beginning of the twentieth century, there were about 70 Urdu journals, unlike the nineteenth century when the Urdu press had numerical superiority over the Hindi press.
# Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad started his weekly, the Al Hilal, on June 1, 1912. The Al Hilal made its influence felt within four weeks of its birth. Within six months, its circulation had reached the figure of 11000. It became so famous, that study circles were formed where the Al Hilal was read out loudly to a group of people.
# Maulana defended the right of cow slaughter for Muslims in the Al hilal, and the influence of the journal was as far reaching as to effect Eruopeans.
# The Madina of Bijnor, started in 1912, achieved considerable influence over Muslim opinion, so did the Urdu paper of Humdum started in Lucknow.
# In 1945, two years before the Independance, the Qaumi Awaz was started in Lucknow, as a sister publication of the National Herald by Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders.
# The Urdu papers suffered greatly from the Partition. Several of them lost their base at Lahore and had to rehabilitate themselves in fresh fields.
# The Munsif and the Siasat from Hyderabad, the Hind Samachar from Jalhandar and the Urdu Times from Mumbai are the principle Urdu newspapers currently in circulation.
The turning point
# Considering the size of the population and the readership in many languages, the press has a long was to go and has a bright future.
# There has been no planning for the press, either for its growth or for its developement, this will help the regional press grow.
# Indian regional newspapers have a great potential for growth.
# The country is still growing, and although newspapers in India have the highest readerships anywhere in the world, they still fall far below the UNESCO standards per head because of the large amount of illeterate population. However, for a country that is growing so aggressively, and coming out particularly in those regions untouched by urbanisation, there is no question that regional journalism is about to have large growth spurts.
# Almost every taluka and district all over India has at least one newspaper that is not registered with the audit bureau of circulation. There are many newspapers that circulate exteremely local news, and carry advertisements of local merchants. There is no count of how many such papers exist, but there are many.
! There are 41 countries without a single newspaper. Even today.
# Newspaper economics will undergo evolution in future growth. Investment, cost and availibility of machinary and newsprint, literacy and spread of telecommunication technology will all play a part.
# A co-operative press has a much better prospects of growth than a competetive one.
# Sucessive National readership surveys show the following trends:
- Increase in the reach of the press in terms of dailies, weeklies and periodicals
- The population, is however, growing at a much faster rate than the press, so the press is constantly catching up to its readership
- (From NRS 2006) Dailies have driven this growth in the press medium, their reach rising as a proportion of all individuals aged 12 years and above – which is the universe defined for NRS – from 24% to 25%. Magazines have declined in reach from 9% to 8% over the last one year. (This is the Trend opposite to developed Nations, where newspapers are losing out to Magazines)
- Collectively, there is a lot of Niche journalism going on that is yet to be studied. Many residential areas all over urban India have a small newspaper of their own.
- More scope for growth in Rural areas than in Urban areas
# The Indian press has scope for growth overseas
The power of the Indian press is not seen in it playing a part in the freedom struggle, not in the eradication of a multitude of social evils, and not even in true spiritual and psychological upliftment of its readership. The power of the Indian press is with the farmer who mourned the death of his bull in a full page obit.