AIR Summary

All India Radio: Spotlight-News Analysis – Role of Press in a Democracy

Ever since the launch of the first newspaper in India- ‘The Bengal Gazette’ by James Augustus Hickey in 1780, the press has been playing an outstanding role in empowering the people. However, With the digital media providing news by the minute on smart phones, journalists will have to exercise greater caution and guard against fake news.
By IASToppers
November 22, 2019


  • Introduction
  • Role of Newspaper
  • Reason for growth of print media
  • Introduction of Television
  • Does the motive of current newspapers have changed?
  • Conclusion
  • Key Fact

Role of Press in a Democracy


India, being the largest democracy in world, have more than a lakh registered publications (combined circulation of over 240 million copies). In the world where digital news is taking over printed newspapers, India can still take pride of having thriving newspaper industry.

Role of Newspaper

During India’s Independence period

  • During the time when India attained independence, the literacy rate was very low. Moreover, there was high prevalence of poverty. Hence, very few people consumed newspapers.
  • During the freedom movement, as the majority of mass was illiterate, a single literate person read the newspaper in front of large group of people. That’s how the Gandhiji and other freedom leaders managed to spread the news.
  • During freedom struggle, though the circulation of newspaper was low, each copy of a newspaper was re-read by passing to another person/group of persons. This shows that people understood the power of newspaper when India attain independence.
  • Apart from official media sources such as Akashvani radio and later Doordarshan, there was no way to communicate to the mass. Hence, newspaper became important. Through newspapers, political parties spread their messages to win election and government communicated with mass of their various initiatives.

During 1970s

  • When the 21-month long emergency was declared by the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in India, all the fundamental rights were suspended.
  • The print industry reacts to this situation differently. Some newspapers stood boldly against the government by publishing blank articles where they used to write their editorials. Others agreed with government to some extent but were not in favor of the propaganda that government was spreading.
  • The emergence of 1970 was a kind of tough exam for print industry which, in general, stood boldly against it.

Reason for growth of print media 

  • Literacy and education reforms were initiated by Indian government in early 1950s and 60s. Due to increase in education, Kottayam in Kerala became the first town to be declared fully literate in 1989. After that, states were started to be declare fully literate.
  • Joint families started to became Nuclear families. This resulted in higher number of circulation of newspapers. This also resulted in the growth of the regional language newspapers compared to Hindi newspapers.
  • However, Hindi newspapers did its expansion in 1980s and 90s. Today, the circulation of Hindi newspapers is equal to the circulation of largest newspaper in world.

Introduction of Television

  • The introduction of Television news eliminated the limitation of printed newspaper such as requirement of literacy, immobile place to read newspaper etc.
  • The televisions changed the way of presentation of news by making it more sensational and used the local language to convey news.
  • To counter Television news, the print media started to provide news digitally on internet. However, the television news largely became popular due to its credibility factor.

Does the motive of current newspapers have changed?

  • During the freedom struggle, the intent behind publishing newspaper was just to spread message on freedom struggle movement. However, since last two-three decades, the newspaper have been treated as a business.
  • This raises the question on the credibility of newspapers and questions on the motive behind the publishing a particular news.
  • Moreover, there is a wide difference between the price of publishing a newspaper in 1947s and in 2019. Today, one has to print large number of newspapers, should have large number of fleet to distribute it and pay to lots of journalists. As newspapers gradually became corporate enterprise, cost factor might have affected the credibility of news.
  • When the newspapers show the atrocities faced by the minority of the societies or even by the general people, politicians should not have called such news as sensational news. Of course, good sensational, news, which sheds light on true facts and events, is always welcome.

Recently, the Vice President of India on the National Press Day said that,

  • Earlier, the news used to be real news. Now, news and views are being clubbed together which is the root of the problem of the current newspapers.
  • The core values of journalism are getting eroded after the political parties and business started their own channel of newspapers.
  • The cardinal principle of journalism is to present fair, objective, accurate and balanced information to the reader and viewer without journalists assuming the role of the gatekeepers.


Nowadays, the media has profound impact on the mass communication. For instance, the credit for the mass awareness on Clean India mission goes to the print and television media. However, compared to the independence time when the newspaper had only missionary reel, the current newspapers does not present the balance and accurate news to the readers. Hence, newspapers should provide unbiased news, by separating news and views, to the readers.

Key Fact

  • November 16 is observed as National Press Day


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