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Is Regional the New National?

In India, there is a popular saying: Kos Kos par badle paani, chaar kos par bani – The water changes every mile, and the language changes every four miles. India’s cultural and linguistic diversity could not have been captured better in only one phrase. The nation of 1.34 billion people, in various regions, speak 121 languages, of which 22 are included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India, which means they enjoy official recognition, status and encouragement for further development, while non-scheduled languages don’t.

Without a single national language, Hindi is considered as one of the official language, spoken by 44% of the country’s population according to the Census 2011.

This then, is the background for India’s multitude of television channels, newspapers and periodicals published in all the scheduled and non-scheduled languages, with multiple brands jostling for space and leadership in every region. Here are some numbers that tell a story: according to the Registrar of Newspapers of India – RNI – there are 11489 Hindi periodicals, 1703 Marathi (language spoken primarily in the state of Maharashtra), 1578 English, 1509 Gujarati (language spoken primarily in the state of Gujarat), 983 Telugu (language spoken primarily in Telengana and Andhra Pradesh) among others.

A look at the television sector, according to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting 2016 data, puts the total number of TV channels in India at 892 of which more than 380 claim to be news channels. Of those news channels, there are more than ten each in the South Indian languages, namely Tamil (language spoken primarily in Tamilnadu), Kannada (language primarily spoken in Karnataka), Telugu and Malayalam (spoken primarily in Kerala). There are nearly forty Hindi news channels as well.

India has national or mainstream media – that predominantly refers to few Hindi television channels and English channels consumed in the metropolitan cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, in addition to Hyderabad and Bengaluru. Though the big media houses like India Today Group, Zee Media, Network18, ABP among others operate popular Hindi news channels, many of them also have a strong regional language presence, underlining the importance of news consumed in regional languages.

Comparing language preferences and TV consumption can provide some interesting insights. While Hindi language news is consumed in the main Hindi heartland, in the North and Central India, regional languages take precedence as one goes to the western, northern, eastern and southern parts of the country. As one studies the television space in these regions, it becomes clear that local news, in local languages, grabs more eyeballs and more viewership. There is a certain distinction between “national news”, in other words, news that happens closer to the big cities, and Delhi, the nerve-centre of politics on the one hand, and “local or regional news” that happens closer to the respective state capitals, or the political hotbed in the state on the other. The number of channels in the national versus regional divide also tells a story. While the mainstream channels that are watched in the heartland are limited, the number of regional news channels increase dramatically as one explores the scenario in the regional states.

The newspaper sector makes for an interesting study too. The English daily The Times of India, ranks first among the English dailies in the country with a readership of over 13 million, while it is only occupying the eleventh position of largest 20 dailies. Topping that list is a Hindi newspaper – Dainik Jagran with 70.37 million readers. Not surprisingly, three vernacular newspapers feature in the top 10 too – Daily Thanthi of Tamil is fifth in the list with 23 million readers and another newspaper – Malayala Manorama of Malayalam is eighth in the list with 15.9 million readers, and Telugu daily, Eenadu is at the ninth position with 15.8 million readers. The numbers are a telling statistic pointing to the preference of regional media over national outlets in English or Hindi.

Print Readership Concentration

Print Readership Concentration
LANGUGAE MARKET TOP 2 OWNERS OUT OF 5AUDIENCE SHARESHARE OF THE MARKET
Hindi*

Dainik Jagran

Hindustan

Amar Ujala

Dainik Bhaskar

76.45%

45.45%

Tamil

Daily Thanthi

Dinakaran

66.66%

8.58%

Marathi

Lokmat

Sakal

58.11%

7.98%

English*

Times of India

Hindustan Times

The Hindu

The Economic Times

75.15%

6.11%

Malayalam

Malayala Manorama

Mathrubhumi

75.75%

5.97%

Telugu

Eenadu

Sakshi

71.13%

5.75%

Gujarati

Gujarat Samachar

Sandesh

70.68%

5.09%

Bengali

Anandabazar Patrika

Bartaman

73.90%

4.93%

Kannada

Vijay Karnataka

Vijayavani

53.20%

4.09%

Oriya

Sambad

Samaja

59.46%

3.34%

Punjabi

Jag Bani

Ajit

82.64%

1.60%

Assamese

Assomiya Pratidin

Assomiya Khabar

59.89%

0.81%

 

Urdu

Inquilab

Roznama Rashtiya Sahara

59.68%

0.30%

*- top 4 out of 10 outlets

Whether newspapers or television channels, a look at the ownership of these outlets at a regional level points to the fact the ownership of media outlets, at the regional level, rests with a handful, and hence, is concentrated. Each of the television channels in the South Indian states, are owned by different entities as are the newspapers that we have studied as a part of this Media Ownership Monitor India.
India is a linguistically, culturally, ethnically diverse country and its media consumption habits are as diverse. To conclude, it is appropriate to say that India has a national media that covers its main Hindi heartland and some Hindi speaking states along with English media, that has a wider presence in terms of geographic reach, but not with large numbers. And then there is regional media – limited though in its own geography, but powerful nevertheless in terms of the audience that it reaches, and caters to.


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