The Post-Independence India has witnessed an explosion in the field of mass media like newspapers, magazines, books, radio, TV and films. After the British left India the Indian media could be used to serve the interests of the people and the nation, according to the new visions, policies, and national goals set by the new architects of the nation, the media owners, and the experts. Communication network was strengthened to preserve the Unity and integrity of Indian and secure the active cooperation of people in the era of planned development and reconstruction.
We have tried to bring to the fore the development and growth of television, radio and print media as a part of Indian culture and society. This compilation is part of a bigger series on Indian Culture, a matter which we are trying to prepare for the aspirants of civil services examination in the country.
India is the second largest publisher in newspaper producing more than 20,758 newspapers with a circulation of about 55.4 millions. Of these 1,423 are dailies, 6,123 weeklies and 13,105 periodicals besides bi-weeklies and tri-weeklies. India is the largest book producer in the Third World and ranks among the first ten in the whole world. It is also the third largest producer of books in English. However titles on Natural Sciences, Medical Sciences and Technology trail behind.
India has four news agencies– Press Trust of India (PTI), United News of India (UNI), Samachar Bharati and Hindustan Samachar.
PTI was set up on August 27, 1947. It took over from the Associated Press of India (API) and Reuters. It has around 124 news bureau in the country. UNI was registered as a company in 1854 and started news operation in 1961. In 1982 it launched its Hindi news services ‘Univarta’. It operates a news service to the media in four Gulf countries.
At 6 P.M. on September 15, 1959, Pratima Puri read out the programmes, the first telecast in India. In the beginning, the TV programmes were telecast only twice a week for only one hour. From 1959 till 1966 the TV programmes were telecast live but in 1966 for the first time a programme was recorded on astronaut Yuri Gagarin. A film processing plant was also installed. Meanwhile the telecast of the feature film started but each film was shown in two parts on two consecutive Sundays. Gradually transmission was extended to four days.
In 1966 a play was shown every week. G.D. Shukul’s play Aisa Bhi Hota Ha was telecast in 106 episodes and was very popular with the viewers. Also 10 episodes of Sara Akash were telecast, in which Kulbhushan Kharbanda played a key role.
In 1971 along with the “School of Television”, a programme on news and current affairs was started, like News Perspective Weekly in English and Desh Videsh and Aamne Saamne in Hindi. A programme for the common man was also introduced in which the then Prime Minister late Mrs. Indira Gandhi was invited.
Many people of different sections of society attended the live programme as this was the first time that the Prime Minister was having a word with the people on T.V. In the year 1972, apart from Delhi, centres were opened in Amritsar, Srinagar and Bombay and the transmission time increased to three and half hours.
In 1975, eminent scientist Vikram Sarabhai mooted the idea of educating and entertaining people with the help of ‘satellite’. Soon transmissions to this effect began through A.T.S.F. 6 at NASA. In 1973, a production centre was set up at Vigyan Bhawan. After that similar centres were opened at Calcutta, Madras and Lucknow.
The development of television was gradual until the microwave technique came. With it the INSAT-1A was availed and in July 1982, the national programme on TV started. In the beginning the duration of the national programme was one and a half hour every day.
On August 15, 1982 New Delhi, Jalandhar, Srinagar, Lucknow, Calcutta, Madras and Bombay were linked to the microwave. At first the national network programmes were telecast from 8.30 to 10.30 which were changed from 9 to 10.45. But from August 11, 1985 the national programmes were held from 8.40 P.M. All Kendras telecast the Hindi news bulletin but on a request from the Government of Tamil Nadu, the Madras centre stopped this bulletin.
The idea of national telecast was mooted at the time of Asian Games in November 1982. Shiv Shankar Sharma, then a Kendra Director, was brought to Delhi from Calcutta and was given the responsibility for the telecast of the Asian Games. The Government was a little apprehensive about the success of the venture and the plans were afoot to give the responsibility to BBC. But Doordarshan decided to shoulder the responsibility alone. All the people in Doordarshan worked as a team covering 22 sports disciplines taking place at 18 different stadia in the three metros. The telecast received kudos from all centres of the world. This telecast ushered in a new chapter in the history of Doordarshan. The coverage of CHOGM and NAM were the other feathers in Doordarshan’s cap.
In 1984 with the serial Humlog began the era of sponsored soap operas. In 1984-85, Doordarshan’s earnings through its commercial service were 31.44 crore which went up in the following 1985-87, 136.30 crore in 1987-88, 161.31 crore in 1988-89 and 210 crore in 1989-90.
On December 20, 1989 even the swearing in ceremony of the new Cabinet of Ministers and the President’s address to the joint session of Parliament was brought live. The year 1989 is also significant because the information and news were include directly (live in the national bulletins during the general elections on November.
In February 1989 the Central Production Centre at Delhi came into operation. In 1991 the winter session of Parliament was recorded and aired after some cuts. It was not put live due to some technical reasons.
Today, there are heaps of proposals for sponsored programmes and serials with a number of committees and sub-committees to take decisions. Serials on Ramayana, Mahabharata, Vishwamitra, Bahadurshah Zafar, Tipu Sultan and Chankya have been telecast.
Today there are more than 550 transmitters operating in the country. TV course 82 per cent of population and 67.6 per cent of the area. The first indigenous Black and White TV receiver was produced in India in 1969. The number has gone up to 45.6 million by 1992.
Though T.V. has made inroads into radio’s audience, this audio media is still very popular with the people, particularly among lower and middle class income group. Radio is less costly and easy to handle and care. Channels are more in Radio than in T.V. And one can do one’s usual work with radio playing in the background. In villages, people still rely more on B.B.C than on T.V. news. Besides, most of the villages in India have no electricity. Thus, TV can be watched only with the help of battery and that is a costly affairs. So, Radio is still the most convenient entertainment as well as news medium.
In 1927, Bombay and Calcutta witnessed the installation of two privately owned transmitters. But in real sense the revolution started with the establishment of the Indian Broadcasting Service when the above two transmitters were taken over by the Government of India. The name Indian Broadcasting Service was changed to All India Radio (AIR) in 1936, which was again changed to Akashvani in 1957. Besides Akashvani Delhi, every state capital has its own radio station. Gradually, important district towns were gifted with a regional radio centre of their own.
In the initial days, the programmes were information oriented. Music relayed was often, classical Debates and discussion on current socio-economic and political scenario could be heard quite often on radio. The only interest of common people it could cater to was through relaying live commentary of cricket and hockey matches. Otherwise, the programmes were stereo-typed. One could listen to Hindi songs on Radio Sri Lanka, thus attracting Indian sponsors. The programmes recorded in India, particularly in Bombay, were sent to Sri Lanka. Binaca Geetmala, a package of Hindi songs from latest films broadcast from 8 P.M. on Wednesday was an instant hit. People waited breathlessly to hear the rank of their favorite songs. The rank was decided by the sale of the cassettes and the requests from the Radio Shrota Sangha.
For News, people, even in the remotest villages, listened to BBC Hindi Service. They relied heavily on its news about India. On May 18, 1988, a National Radio Channel was born. The transmission originated in Delhi and then beamed all over the country through a 1000 kW transmitter at Nagpur. National Channel started at 11 P.M. and continued till early morning. The programmes included Hindi songs, English songs, classical music and even regional songs.
The Vividh Bhrati Service, an exclusive entertainment channel was the only respite for the common people. But it lacked the range of Radio Sri lanka Broadcasting and songs played were always oldies. Technically speaking, two high power short wave transmitters in Madras and Bombay carried the transmissions. There were 32 Commercial Broadcasting centers.
Of late, the programmes on Vividh Bharati have gained in both, range and quality. Radio Srilanka has lost its place to indigenous, more clear, Vividh Bharati. From forgotten melodies to the latest pop can be heard on this channel. Sponsored programmes have been bringing in revenue too. Film previews can also be heard. Hawa Mahal is popular for the humorous dramas. Chhaya Geet, heard at 10 P.M. every night, is a package of Hindi songs based on a particular them. At 10.45 P.M. this channel closes its transmission.
Yuvavani is for the youth. Mehfil (Hindi songs) and Play it Cool (English songs) are very popular among students. A student is invited to play the records of his/her choice for the audience in case of above programmes. Youth based topics are also discussed on Yuvavani.
Towards the end of 1991 STAR TV, then a little known Hong Kong company acquired a transponder and began beaming spectrum of shows to the Indian subcontinent. Ted Turner’s Cable News Network (CNN) International has already provided Indians with the first taste of the dazzling satellite technology.
Then surfaced on the scene, the illegal, but enterprising cable TV operators. This helped STAR to invade Indian homes with vengeance. The responses to STARS TV in India has been staggering; from 4.12 lakh urban households in January, the number has zoomed to 12.82 lakh, an increase of 211 per cent. At present STAR is relaying on five channels viz, Star Plus, MTV, Prime Sports, BBC and Zee TV.
But, STAR’s audience in Indian is only a fraction of Doordarshan’s total reach a staggering 125 million people in urban settlements, plus a possible 75 million more in the countryside. Doordarshan’s national network and seven regional networks are serviced by scores of ground based transmitters linked to two INSAT satellites. More regional networks are planned in the next few years. But Doordarshn’s greatest indictment comes from STAR’S success. Viewers have to pay cable operators for the satellite channels and most of the programmes are unrelated to their lives yet STAR is spreading into city slums and into the countryside.
To counter STAR’s success, Mandi House started Metro Channel loaded with programmes related to films. Though this channel’s popularity has increased tremendously, some say D.D. has become a poor man’s version of the Hindi cinema. Films, variations of Chitrahaar and interviews with film stars have become the order of the day.
DD, till recently, was also placed at disadvantage because it was transmitting only terrestrially, and viewers had to disconnect the cable- TV Line to switch on Doordarshan. As such DD’s latest move of transmitting its Metro Channel via INSAT seems to be the first serious step on the part of the government to fight the competition from STAR et al. For transmission of Metro Channel, DD is using INSAT 1D and INSAT -2A transponders. The TV signals from these transponders can be received only through dish antennae, which are so highly priced as to be unaffordable to the common viewer.