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Joachim Betz

Professor Dr. rer. soc. Joachim Betz, born in 1946, was a senior research fellow at the Institute for Asian Studies at the GIGA (German Institute of Global and Area Studies / Leibniz Institute for Global and Regional Studies) and is Prof. emeritus for Political Science at the University of Hamburg.
His specialist areas of expertise are politics and economics in South Asia, debt, raw materials policy, globalization and development finance.

India's media sector is an important economic factor. Radio and television are widespread, the film industry is the largest in the world and is attracting a great deal of public interest. This also applies to the broad, high-circulation press landscape, which, however, has to contend with restrictions on freedom of expression.

India has a broad press landscape. The nearly 80,000 registered newspapers achieved a turnover of 4.76 billion US dollars in 2016. Because of their low prices, Indian daily newspapers are also affordable for the poor. Newspaper kiosk in Mumbai in March 2016 (& copy imago / Arnulf Hetterich)

A free media landscape is not wrongly viewed as an essential prerequisite for sustainable democracy, the empowerment of citizens and thus also the promotion of good governance. In terms of the diversity and relative freedom of the media, India scores comparatively well, even if there are already constitutional restrictions on these freedoms and representatives of groups who feel provoked by excessively free representations react with attempts at intimidation.
The Indian government is highlighting the country's undoubtedly given cultural charisma under the heading of soft power. The media sector has also become an important economic factor, its 2014 turnover was around 20 billion euros with annual double-digit growth rates.


The Indian press looks back on a long history. The first weekly newspaper appeared as early as 1780. From 1838 onwards, the first English-language daily newspapers (Times of India, The Statesman, The Hindu) appeared, which are still among the high-circulation papers today. At the same time, a national language press developed. This was exposed to severe persecution and censorship by the colonial authorities even more than the newspapers mentioned, especially since it clearly began to support the struggle for independence.

After independence there was no complete freedom of the press, rather the Press Trust of India (PTI) was entrusted with the supervision of the newspapers. Incitement of the people, for example, or the call to violate law and order and the disturbance of morality allowed the judicial closure of the relevant organs. After sharp criticism of these requirements and the expiry of the relevant implementing laws, the supervision of the press was placed under the Press Council of India in 1954, in which journalists are also represented in the sense of self-discipline of the press and also responsible for the fair distribution of scarce newspaper and the control of the Advertising is supposed to take care of.

After independence, a number of British newspaper publishers left the country and left the business to Indian successors. Since then, the number, circulation and readership of daily and weekly newspapers has increased relatively more than in any other country in the world. In contrast to the corresponding markets elsewhere, the one in India continues to expand. Today there are over 80,000 registered newspapers (including around 4,500 daily newspapers) with a total circulation of around 200 million daily. The Indian daily newspapers are thus among the largest in circulation in the world. In comparison, the circulation and sales of magazines are falling significantly.
The front runners are the Hindi-language daily newspapers with a circulation of up to 18 million. The circulation of newspapers in the regional languages ​​is lower, the English-language press has lost proportion of readers, but the Times of India still has a readership of just under eight million. The rise of the national language organs has increased the concentration of content on local and regional topics, with newspapers having clear advantages over television, for example. The competition between newspapers from the Internet is still moderate; only around ten percent of users read their newspaper online every day.

The Indian press is viewed - not only by itself - as an unprecedentedly plural, critical and high-quality institution for a less developed country. Nevertheless, a few problems should be pointed out that tarnish the picture a bit. Indian daily newspapers are extremely cheap and therefore cannot even remotely cover their costs with the corresponding income; more than two thirds of them are covered by advertising.

This has led to the widespread deficiency of "paid news", that is, to advertising that disguises itself as news and clearly shows consideration for advertisers. This is promoted by connections (including financial ones) from publishers to advertising agencies. There is also paid news for party candidates in elections, in which their merits are duly highlighted. The struggle for circulation and the expensive newsprint promote the writing of very short texts, they promote trivialization and narrow the scope for journalistic quality. It is therefore not surprising that journalists in India are not very trusted today.
In rankings on freedom of the press, India ranks at the bottom of the list. In 2017, Reporters Without Borders ranked India 136th out of 180 nations. This not only has to do with the fact that journalists are restricted in their freedom of expression, but are also physically threatened by interested parties such as the underworld or the Naxalites. In addition, the working conditions of journalists, who are increasingly working as freelancers, as in Germany, have deteriorated significantly.


Radio broadcasting began in India in 1924 with a private program. Broadcasting was soon nationalized by the colonial rule for the purpose of strengthening it politically and brought up to the state of the art by the BBC. At the time of independence, India had six radio stations and 18 transmitters; the number of these has increased rapidly as part of the five-year plans.
The Indian government continued the tradition of state radio and submitted it (as an instrument of development) directly to the Ministry of Information. The criticism of this state instrumentalization of broadcasting did not end, however. Despite reports from several commissions calling for broadcasting autonomy, nothing changed for a long time until a ruling by the Supreme Court (1995) and a new broadcasting law that was subsequently passed ended the state monopoly. As a precaution, this law also prohibited the purchase of radio and television stations by press entrepreneurs, but at the same time allowed foreign participation in satellite radio and television. With this and the beginning of VHF transmissions (also in 1995), radio experienced a rapid boom, despite the simultaneous rapid expansion of television.

Today almost every Indian household has radio reception. Above all, there has been a massive increase in the number of local broadcasters that only cover a correspondingly small part of the population with limited coverage and concentrate on the reproduction of film music and local news as well as on rather young listeners. There are currently around 800 FM stations in India and an increasing number of them can be heard online. The state guidelines for establishing such channels have been increasingly liberalized, and training institutions and non-governmental organizations have also been approved as operators.