Thursday, May 5, 2011


We still lack accessibility to mass information media

The economics of news has always been very intriguing, but the socio-economics is far more captivating. The social impact of newspaper, periodicals and TV or shall I say information media goes beyond conventional welfare economics. It has been observed that most literate countries in the world also have very high readership. In simple words, newspaper, periodicals and news channels are the only tools that can reach masses, educate them and make them aware – all at one go.

When it comes to newspaper circulation, India beats any country hands down. We stand at the top position when it comes to newspaper circulation with 59,023,000 newspapers being circulated daily followed by Germany that manages to circulate only 25,000,000 – which is less than half that of India. India ranks third in the world when it comes to newspaper and periodicals combined circulation with 62,000,000 newspaper and periodicals being circulated daily closely following China and Japan. But when it comes to availability and access to these information media, we don’t even feature in top 10! India stands at the 28th position, when it comes to newspaper circulation per capita, per day with merely 54.64 newspapers per 1,000 people. While the top ranking country –Norway- boasts of 554.10 newspapers per 1,000 people – approximately 10 times that of India. The situation gets worse with newspapers and periodicals availability per capita as India drops down to the 48th position with just 60.09 per 1,000 people, while Japan and Norway again tops the list. It goes without any doubt that periodicals do play a significant role in educating people at the same time inculcates a sense of opinion. Periodicals not only provides relatively deeper insights but also more analysis and commentary on myriad issues. The most accessible media of information being TV are again in short supply, as we have only 0.58 television broadcast stations per million people – with Norway having 82.569 per million people - making us the 152nd nation in the list. As of 2010, a total number of 515 channels are available in the country out of which 150 are pay channels with total cable subscribers per 1,000 being merely 38.5.

Th e entire issue of news dissemination can be put under into two broad categories. One, being of aff ordability and other being of shortage of quality local mass media. Newspaper and periodicals are still very expensive in India, and TV channels are out of reach of millions. A back of envelope calculation shows that an average Indian have to do way with 2-3 per cent of his annual income annually for a year round newspaper and periodicals readings, while a British can do it for merely 1.5-2 per cent of his annual income. And mind you, this is just the cost of the newspaper, which does not include the cost of access as a large part of the population do not have a door step access of newspapers and periodicals like in cities. In newspaper and periodicals, India does have a few titles in Hindi that are at par with leading English titles, but when it comes to other local languages, we still fail to satisfy the appetite of local readers. Similar is the case with regional TV channels and especially regional news channel, which has more to do with access issues, than anything else. With low broadband connectivity, lower education and far lower internet awareness, it is print media and electronic media that need to be made more accessible and affordable for masses. It is not just about information dissemination but also about responsibility towards citizens as a whole.


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