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Journalism…

It is being noticed that the Media are occupying the second position as far as the promotion and expansion of languages is concerned in a multilingual country, like India. First, there is Education… and then, it is Media! The different channels of communication through the Media are quite strong in the South Asian Nation because of their reach to almost everywhere in the country mostly due to their close relationship with different machineries of the State! A close relationship with the State Power helps one enjoy the Power, as well as the Authority! Any Provincial Government in India may ask the media barons to print broadsheets in their existing official languages… When the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in the North-Eastern province of Tripura a couple of years ago, the Provincial Government asked the mainstream Media to cover major news items in Hindi language…
In 18th Century British India, the first newspaper was published in English language. With the spread of education, the English readership also increased, as well the number of English-language dailies. A total of 130 broadsheets were published in India in the 19th Century. Samachar Darpan (1818) was the first one in any Indian vernacular language that was published also during the same time. When India attended Independence (in 1947), the number of newspapers and magazines in vernacular languages was 120. Of course, their purposes, target audiences and reader-bases were different from those of the English-language dailies. Those were published either to promote Christianity or to sensitise the Indians about the real character of the British Colonial rulers… profit-making was not so important for the Media Houses at that period of time.

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Those vernacular-language dailies and magazines started creating troubles for the British rulers. As most of the Britons were not well-versed in the Indian languages, they were worried about the main motive of those papers. This fear led to the State Control over the Media… and, the Vernacular Press Act (1878 ) was introduced in British India by the Colonial Rulers. As per the Act, the Media Houses would have to take prior consent of the Government before publishing certain new items. With the increasing number of families in vernacular-languages, it became really difficult for the British rulers to control and monitor the newspapers…
During the post-Independence period, there was a sudden increase in the number of dailies in English-language in India! Nearly one-fifth of all the broadsheets became English-language dailies. Then, the Media Houses were considered as a profit-making business. In 1950, India adopted its Constitution as a Republic, in which there was a separate Article on the Freedom of Speech ad Expression. At the same time, the Constitution allowed the Government of India to monitor and control the Media! Interestingly, the Government was not interested in controlling the Media Houses, but the contents. People experienced the real attack on the Media by the Government during the Emergency, which refers to an 18-month period from June 26, 1975 to January 1977 when then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi had a State of Emergency declared under Article 352 of the Constitution because of the prevailing “internal disturbance“.

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The Emergency Period (or attack on the Media) was followed by an unprecedented turnaround in the 1990s. The spread of Education, the rise of Capitalism, as well as the technological advancement led to the rapid growth in the Indian Newspaper Industry. The industry successfully managed to target the rural population, with vernacular-language dailies and magazines exploring the markets in village areas. On the basis of readership, broadsheets in Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil and Malayalam have occupied the top 10 positions in the last decade. An English-language daily occupies the 11th position!
There is a clear difference between these two types of papers (the vernacular-language dailies and the English-language dailies). Readers of the English-language dailies are mainly interested in searching for jobs, businesses, global news, news related to science and technology, and data. On the other hand, the vernacular-language dailies concentrate mainly on regional and local news. Their reporters are well aware of the pulse of the local people, who enjoy reading news in their mother tongues…

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A language expert is of the opinion that the use of English is closely related to caste and class in India. The vernacular-language dailies often publish advertisements of foreign cars in English. They also translate reports on economy and finance into vernacular languages from English. The English-language broadsheets are a symbol of Elitism in India, a former British colony. Therefore, there is a steady demand of English-language dailies.
Interestingly, the contemporary market is in favour of the Indian languages. The Media Houses publish dailies in those languages which are in demand. Even, the Houses consider the readers’ choice before selecting articles for publication. The Government, too, knows that there should be a consistency between the Language Policy and the demand in market. Otherwise, controlling the Media becomes a difficult task! Ultimately, business determines the future of Languages.

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The Media are carrying the rich legacy of India’s multilingual culture. There are broadsheets in 87 languages in this country! Once, the vernacular-language dailies had sensitised people about the brutal characters of the Colonial Rulers… now, they are acting as the mouthpieces of the Indian society. The English-language dailies are also there to portray the cultural diversity of the country.

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