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Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Media in India: Key Features and Landmarks

The Media in India: Key Features and Landmarks

All India Radio and Doordarshan were state owned until 1997 under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting; primary declared aims of promoting the social objectives of the nation such as literacy and family planning.
1960s- 1990s: Government efforts at using radio and TV for development communication have met with varying degrees of success. Major projects include rural radio forums for agricultural development (1967), SITE (75-76), and the Kheda project (1976-1989) and the 1995 GRAMSAT experiment using radio for training of women panchayat (local village level governance) members. These large-scale projects to meet core development needs yield valuable lessons on the software, hardware and organisational management needs of such efforts.

1981-1985: Rapid increase in the number of TV transmitters from 21 to over 400, and a corresponding commercialisation of Indian television by the mid-80s.

1984-85: Launch of India's first major prosocial soap opera Hum Log (We the People). The much-studied 156-episode, 17-month series promotes issues such as family planning and education for the girl child. This coincides with the rise of the middle class as a dominant force in the country, with an increase in film-based entertainment programming, private sponsorship and consumerism.

1985-90: Doordarshan outpaces radio and print media as the first choice for advertising, hiking its ad rates thrice between 1985 and 1988. By 1987, there are at least 40 serials on air. A media boom sees an increase in the number of publications, and a preponderence of TV and cinema-based reporting.

1990: The Government of India initiates an economic reform process, heralding an era of privatisation and liberalisation. The Prasar Bharati Act is passed, delinking broadcasting from direct government control. The act is notified only in 1997.

February 1991: The Gulf war creates an unprecedented demand for cable television among Indian viewers wanting to follow the CNN coverage of the war. The demand for cable television continues after the war ends.

May 1991: Launch of satellite television in the form of the Hong-Kong based Star TV with its 39-nation footprint. Star TV transforms the face of Indian television, with its multiple channels and aggressive market-driven entertainment programming. Other private channels follow such as Zee TV, Sony TV, Sun, and Gemini. Doordarshan's revenues are fast depleted.

February 1995: A landmark Supreme Court judgement ruling declares that " airwaves are a public property. They have to be controlled and regulated by a public authority in the interest of the public and to prevent the invasion of their rights." The judgement outlines autonomy for Prasar Bharati and opens broadcasting to private players.

1996: A Broadcasting Bill is drafted which is an apex legislation on broadcasting. The Bill subsumes the Prasar Bharati Act of 1990 by spelling out autonomy for the Broadcasting Authority of India (to replace the role of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) to regulate public and private broadcasting. The Bill also lays down guidelines for granting licenses to satellite, terrestrial and cable broadcasters to establish and operate radio and TV channels to the "highest techno-commercially acceptable bidder." It is yet to be tabled in Parliament.

August 1998: the Prasar Bharati Act is passed by the lower house of parliament, with an amendment that the Broadcasting Authority will be overseen by a 32-member parliamentary committee. The broadcast media stands poised on the brink of autonomy, awaiting the President's signature.

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