NCERT Class XII Sociology: Chapter 7 – Mass Media and Communications

National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) Book for Class XII
Subject: Sociology (Social Change and Development in India)
Chapter: Chapter 7 – Mass Media and Communications

Class XII NCERT Sociology (Social Change and Development in India) Text Book Chapter 7 – Mass Media and Communications is given below.

The mass media include a wide variety of forms, including television, newspapers, films, magazines, radio, advertisements, video games and CDs. They are referred to as ‘mass’ media because they reach mass audiences – audiences comprised of very large numbers of people. They are also sometimes referred to as mass communications. For many in your generation it is probably difficult to imagine a world without some form of mass media and communications.

Mass media is part of our everyday life. In many middle class households across the country people wake up only to put on the radio, switch on the television, look for the morning newspaper. The younger children of the same households may first glance at their mobile phones to check their missed calls. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters and sundry other service providers in many urban centres have a mobile telephone where they can be easily contacted. Many shops in cities increasingly have a small television set. Customers who come in may exchange bits of conversation about the cricket match being telecasted or the film being shown. Indians abroad keep regular touch with friends and families back home over the internet and telephone. Migrants from working class population in the cities are regularly in touch with their families in the villages over the phone. Have you seen the range of advertisements of mobile phones?

Have you noticed the diverse social groups that they are catering to? Are you surprised that the CBSE Board results are available to you on both the internet and over the mobile phone. Indeed this very book is available on the internet.

It is obvious that there has been a phenomenal expansion of mass communication of all kinds in recent years. As students of sociology, there are manyaspects to this growth which is of great interest to us. First, while we recognise the specificity of the current communication revolution, it is important to go back a little and sketch out the growth of modern mass media in the world and in India. This helps us realise that like any other social institution the structure and content of mass media is shaped by changes in the economic, political and socio-cultural contexts. For instance, we see how central the state and its vision of development influenced the media in the first decades after independence. And how in the post 1990 period of globalisation the market has a key role to play. Second, this help us better appreciate how the relationship between mass media and communication with society is dialectical. Both influence each other. The nature and role of mass media is influenced by the society in which it is located. At the same time the far reaching influence of mass media on society cannot be over-emphasised. We shall see this dialectical relationship when we discuss in this chapter (a) the role of media in colonial India, (b) in the first decades after independence and (c) and finally in the context of globalisation. Third, mass communication is different from other means of communication as it requires a formal structural organisation to meet large-scale capital, production and management demands. You will find, therefore, that the state and/or the market have a major role in the structure and functioning of mass media. Mass media functions through very large organisations with major investments and large body of employees. Fourth, there are sharp differences between how easily different sections of people can use mass media. You will recall the concept of digital divide from the last chapter.

7.1 THE BEGINNINGS OF MODERN MASS MEDIA

The first modern mass media institution began with the development of the printing press. Although the history of print in certain societies dates back to many centuries, the first attempts at printing books using modern technologies began in Europe. This technique was first developed by Johann Gutenberg in 1440. Initial attempts at printing were restricted to religious books.

With the Industrial Revolution, the print industry also grew. The first products of the press were restricted to an audience of literate elites. It was only in the mid 19th century, with further development in technologies, transportation and literacy that newspapers began to reach out to a mass audience. People living in different corners of the country found themselves reading or hearing the same news. It has been suggested that this was in many ways responsible for people across a country to feel connected and develop a sense of belonging or ‘we feeling’. The well known scholar Benedict Anderson has thus argued that this helped the growth of nationalism, the feeling that people who did not even know of each other’s existence feel like members of a family. It gave people who would never meet each other a sense of togetherness. Anderson thus suggested that we could think of the nation as an ‘imagined community’.

You will recall how 19th century social reformers often wrote and debated in newspapers and journals. The growth of Indian nationalism was closely linked to its struggle against colonialism. It emerged in the wake of the institutional changes brought about by British rule in India. Anti colonial public opinion was nurtured and channelised by the nationalist press, which was vocal in its opposition to the oppressive measures of the colonial state. This led the colonial government to clamp down on the nationalist press and impose censorship, for instance during the Ilbert Bill agitation in 1883. Association with the national movement led some of the nationalist newspapers like Kesari (Marathi), Mathrubhumi (Malayalam), Amrita Bazar Patrika (English) to suffer the displeasure of the colonial state. But that did not prevent them from advocating the nationalist cause and demand an end to colonial rule.

Under British rule newspapers and magazines, films and radio comprised the range of mass media. Radio was wholly owned by the state. National views could not be, therefore, expressed. Newspapers and films though autonomous from the state were strictly monitored by the Raj. Newspapers and magazines either in English or vernacular were not very widely circulated as the literate public was limited. Yet their influence far out stripped their circulation as news and information was read and spread by word of mouth from commercial and administrative hubs like markets and trading centers as well as courts and towns. The print media carried a range of opinion, which expressed their ideas of a ‘free India’. These variations were carried over to independent India.

 

7.2 MASS MEDIA IN INDEPENDENT INDIA

THE APPROACH

In independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister, called upon the media to function as the watchdog of democracy. The media was expected to spread the spirit of self-reliance and national development among the people. You will recall the generalthrust of development in the early years of independence in India from your earlier chapters. The media was seen as a means to inform the people of the various developmental efforts. The media was also encouraged to fight against oppressive social practices like untouchability, child marriages, and ostracism of widows, as well as beliefs of witchcraft and faith healing. A rational, scientific ethos was to be promoted for the building of a modern industrial society. The Films Division of the government produced newsreels and documentaries. These were shown before the screening of films in every movie theatre, documenting the development process as directed by the state.

RADIO

Radio broadcasting which commenced in India through amateur ‘ham’ broadcasting clubs in Kolkata and Chennai in the 1920s matured into a public broadcasting system in the 1940s during the World War II when it became a major instrument of propaganda for Allied forces in South-east Asia. At the time of independence there were only 6 radio stations located in the major cities catering primarily to an urban audience. By 1950 there were 546,200 radio licences all over India.

Since the media was seen as an active partner in the development of the newly free nation the AIR’s programmes consisted mainly of news, current affairs, discussions on development. The box below captures the spirit of those times.

Apart from All India Radio (AIR) broadcasts news there was Vividh Bharati, a channel for entertainment that was primarily broadcasting Hindi film songs on listeners request. In 1957 AIR acquired the hugely popular channel Vividh Bharati, which soon began to carry sponsored programmes and advertisements and grew to become a money-spinning channel for AIR.

When India gained independence in 1947, All India Radio had an infrastructure of six radio stations, located in metropolitan cities. The country had 280,000 radio receiver sets for a population of 350 million people. After independence the government gave priority to the expansion of the radio broadcasting infrastructure, especially in state capitals and in border areas. Over the years, AIR has developed a formidable infrastructure for radio broadcasting in India. It operates a three-tiered – national, regional, and local – service to cater to India’s geographic, linguistic and cultural diversity.

The major constraint for the popularisation of radio initially was the cost of the radio set. The transistor revolution in the 1960s made the radio more accessible by making it mobile as battery operated sets and reducing the unit

price substantially. In 2000 around 110 million households (two-thirds of all Indian households) were listening to radio broadcasts in 24 languages and 146 dialects. More than a third of them were rural household

TELEVISION

Television programming was introduced experimentally in India to promote rural development as early as 1959. Later the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) broadcasted directly to community viewers in the rural areas of six states between August 1975 and July 1976. These instructional broadcasts were broadcast to 2,400 TV sets directly for 4 hours daily. Meanwhile, television stations were set up under Doordarshan in 4 cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Srinagar and Amritsar) by 1975. Three more stations in Kolkata, Chennai and Jalandhar were added within a year. Every broadcasting centre had its own mix of programmes comprising news, children’s and women’s programmes, farmer’s programmes as well as entertainment programmes.

As programmes become commercialised and were allowed to carry advertisements of its sponsors, a shift in target audience was evident. Entertainment programmes grew and were directed to the urban consuming class. The advent of colour broadcasting during the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi and the rapidexpansion of the national network led to rapid commercialisation of television broadcasting. During 1984-85 the number of television transmitters increased all over India covering a large proportion of the population. It was also the time when indigenous soap operas like Hum Log (1984-85) and Buniyaad (1986- 87) were aired. They were hugely popular acclaim and attracted substantial advertising revenue for Doordarshan as did the broadcasting of the epics Ramayana (1987-88) and Mahabharat (1988-90).

 

PRINT MEDIA

The beginnings of the print media and its role in both the spread of the social reform movement and the nationalist movement have been noted. After independence, the print media continued to share the general approach of being a partner in the task of nation building by taking up developmental issues as well as giving voice to the widest section of people. The brief extract in the box below will give you a sense of the commitment.

The gravest challenge that the media faced was with the declaration of Emergency in 1975 and censorship of the media. Fortunately, the period ended and democracy was restored in 1977. India with its many problems can be justifiably proud of a free media.

At the start of the chapter we had mentioned how mass media is different from other means of communication as it requires a formal structural organisation to meet large scale capital, production and management demands. And also like any other social institution the mass media also varies in structure and content according to different economic, political and socio-cultural context. You will now notice how at different points in time both the content and style of media changes. At some points the state has a greater role to play. At other times the market does. In India this shift is very visible in recent times. This change has also led to debates about what role the media ought to play in a modern democracy. We look at these new developments in the next section.

7.3 GLOBALISATION AND THE MEDIA

We have already read about the far reaching impact of globalisation as well as its close link with the communication revolution in the last chapter. The media have always had international dimensions – such as the gathering of new stories and the distribution of primarily western films overseas. However, until the 1970s most media companies operated within specific domestic markets in accordance with regulations from national governments. The media industry was also differentiated into distinct sectors – for the most part, cinema, print media, radio and television broadcasting all operated independently of one another.

In the past three decades, however, profound transformations have taken place within the media industry. National markets have given way to a fluid global market, while new technologies have led to the fusion of forms of media that were once distinct.

We began with the case of the music industry and the far reaching consequences that globalisation has had on it. The changes that have taken place in mass media is so immense that this chapter will probably be only able to give you a fragmentary understanding. As a young generation you can build up on the information provided. Let us have a look at the changes that globalisation has brought about on the print media (primarily newspapers and magazines), the electronic media (primarily television), and on the radio.

PRINT MEDIA

We have seen how important newspapers and magazines were for the spread of the freedom movement. It is often believed that with the growth of the television and the internet the print media would be sidelined. However, in India we have seen the circulation of newspapers grow. As the box 7.9 suggests new technologies have helped boost the production and circulation of newspapers. A large number of glossy magazines have also made their entry into the market.

As is evident, the reasons for this amazing growth in Indian language newspapers are many. First, there is a rise in the number of literate people who are migrating to cities. The Hindi daily Hindustan in 2003 printed 64,000 copies of their Delhi edition, which jumped to 425,000 by 2005. The reason was that, of Delhi’s population of one crore and forty-seven lakhs, 52 per cent had come from the Hindi belt of the two states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Out of this, 47 per cent have come from a rural background and 60 per cent of them are less than 40 years of age.

Second, the needs of the readers in the small towns and villages are different from that of the cities and the Indian language newspapers cater to those needs. Dominant Indian language newspapers such as Malayala Manorama and the Eenadu launched the concept of local news in a significant manner by introducing district and whenever necessary, block editions. Dina Thanthi, another leading Tamil newspaper, has always used simplified and colloquial language. The Indian language newspapers have adopted advanced printing technologies and also attempted supplements, pullouts, and literary and niche booklets. Marketing strategies have also marked the Dainik Bhaskar group’s growth as they carry out consumer contact programmes, door-to-door surveys, and research. This also brings back the point that modern mass media has to have a formal structural organisation.

While English newspapers, often called ‘national dailies’, circulate across regions, vernacular newspapers have vastly increased their circulation in the states and the rural hinterland. In order to compete with the electronic media, newspapers, especially English language newspapers have on the one hand reduced prices and on the other hand brought out editions from multiple centres.

 

 

 

 

Many feared that the rise in electronic media would lead to a decline in the circulation of print media. This has not happened. Indeed it has expanded. This process has, however, often involved cuts in prices and increasing dependence on the sponsors of advertisements who in turn have a larger say in the content of newspapers. The box below captures the logic of this practice.

TELEVISION

In 1991 there was one state controlled TV channel Doordarshan in India. By 1998 there were almost 70 channels. Privately run satellite channels have multiplied rapidly since the mid-1990s. While Doordarshan broadcasts over 20 channels there were some 40 private television networks broadcasting in 2000. The staggering growth of private satellite television has been one of the defining developments of contemporary India. In 2002, 134 million individuals watched satellite TV on an average every week. This number went up to 190 million in 2005. The number of homes with access to satellite TV has jumped from 40 million in 2002 to 61 million in 2005. Satellite subscription has now penetrated 56 percent of all TV homes.

The Gulf War of 1991 (which popularised CNN), and the launching of Star-TV in the same year by the Whampoa Hutchinson Group of Hong Kong, signalled the arrival of private satellite Channels in India. In 1992, Zee TV, a Hindi-based satellite entertainment channel, also began beaming programs to cable television viewers in India. By 2000, 40 private cable and satellite channels were available including several that focused exclusively on regional-language broadcasting like Sun-TV, Eenadu-TV, Udaya-TV, Raj-TV, and Asianet. Meanwhile, Zee TV has also launched several regional networks, broadcasting in Marathi, Bengali and other languages.

While Doordarshan was expanding rapidly in the 1980s, the cable television industry was mushrooming in major Indian cities. The VCR greatly multipliedentertainment options for Indian audiences, providing alternatives to Doordarshan’s single channel programming. Video viewing at home and in community-based parlours increased rapidly. The video fare consisted mostly of film-based entertainment, both domestic and imported. By 1984, entrepreneurs in cities such as Mumbai and Ahmedabad had begun wiring apartment buildings to transmit several films a day. The number of cable operators exploded from 100 in 1984, to 1200 in 1988, to 15,000 in 1992, and to about 60,000 in 1999.

The coming in of transnational television companies like Star TV, MTV, Channel [V], Sony and others, worried some people on the likely impact on Indian youth and on the Indian cultural identity. But most of the transnational television channels have through research realised that the use of the familiar is more effective in procuring the diverse groups that constitute Indian audience. The early strategy of Sony International was to broadcast 10 Hindi films a week, gradually decreasing the number as the station produced its own Hindi language content. The majority of the foreign networks have now introduced either a segment of Hindi language programming (MTV India), or an entire new Hindi language channel (STAR Plus). STAR Sports and ESPN have dual commentary or an audio sound track in Hindi. The larger players have launched specific regional channels in languages such as Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi and Gujrati.

Perhaps the most dramatic adoption of localisation was carried out by STAR TV. In October 1996, STAR Plus, initially an all English general entertainment channel originating from Hong Kong, began producing a Hindi language belt of programming between 7 and 9 PM. By February 1999, the channel was converted to a solely Hindi Channel and all English serials shifted to STAR World, the network’s English language international channel. Advertising to promote the change included the Hinglish slogan: ‘Aapki Boli. Aapka Plus Point’ (Your language/speech. Your Plus Point) (Butcher, 2003). Both STAR and Sony continued to dub US programming for younger audience as children appeared to be able to adjust to the peculiarities that arise when the language is one and the setting another. Have you watched a dubbed programme? What do you feel about it?

Most television channels are on throughout the day, 24X7. The format for news is lively and informal. News has been made far more immediate, democratic and intimate. Television has fostered public debate and is expanding its reach every passing year. This brings us to the question whether serious political and economic issues are neglected.

There are a growing number of news channels in Hindi and English, a large number of regional channels and an equally large number of reality shows, talk shows, Bollywood shows, family soaps, interactive shows, game shows and comedy shows. Entertainment television has produced a new cadre of superstars who have become familiar household names, and their private life, rivalry on sets feed the gossip columns of popular magazines and newspapers. Reality shows like Kaun Banega Crorepati or Indian Idol or Big Boss have become increasingly popular. Most of these are modelled along the lines of western programmes. Which of these programmes can be identified as interactive shows, as family soaps, talk shows, reality shows. Discuss.

RADIO

In 2000, AIR’s programmes could be heard in two-third of all Indian households in 24 languages and 146 dialects, over some 120 million radio sets. The advent of privately owned FM radio stations in 2002 provided a boost to entertainment programmes over radio. In order to attract audiences these privately run radio stations sought to provide entertainment to its listeners. As privately run FM channels are not permitted to broadcast any political news bulletins, many of these channel specialise in ‘particular kinds’ of popular music to retain their audiences. One such FM channel claims that it broadcasts ‘All hits all day’! Most of the FM channels which are popular among young urban professionals and students, often belong to media conglomerates. Like ‘Radio Mirchi’ belongs to the Times of India group, Red FM is owned by Living Media and Radio City by the Star Network. But independent radio stations engaged in public broadcastings like National Public Radio (USA) or BBC (UK) are missing from our broadcasting landscape.

In the two films: ‘Rang de Basanti’ and ‘Lage Raho Munnai Bhai’ the radio is used as an active medium of communication although both the movies are set in the contemporary period. In ‘Rang de Basanti’, the conscientious, angry college youth, inspired by the legend of Bhagat Singh assassinates a minister and then captures All India Radio to reach out to the people and disseminate their message. While in ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’, the heroine is a radio jockey who wakes up the country with her hearty and full-throated “Good Morning Mumbai!” the hero too takes recourse to the radio station to save a girl’s life.

The potential for using FM channels is enormous. Further privatisation of radio stations and the emergence of community owned radio stations would lead to the growth of radio stations. The demand for local news is growing. The number of homes listening to FM in India has also reinforced the world wide trend of networks getting replaced by local radio. The box below reveals not only the ingenuity of a village youth but also the need for catering to local cultures.

Conclusion

That mass media is an essential part of our personal and public life today cannot be emphasised enough. This chapter in no way can capture your life experience with the media. What it does do is attempt to understand it as an important part of contemporary society. It also seeks to focus on its many dimensions – its link with the state and the market, its social organisation and management, its relationship with readers and audience. In other words it looks at both the constraints within which media operates and the many ways that it affects our lives.

Questions

  1. Trace out the changes that have been occurring in the newspaper industry? What is your opinion on these changes?
  2. Is radio as a medium of mass communication dying out? Discuss the potential that FM stations have in post-liberalisation India?
  3. Trace the changes that have been happening in the medium of television. Discuss.

References

Bhatt, S.C. 1994. Satellite invasion in India. Sage. New Delhi.

Butcher, Melissa. 2003. Transnational television, Cultural Identity and change: When STAR Came to India. Sage. New Delhi.

Chaudhuri, Maitrayee. 2005. ‘A Question of Choice: Advertisements, Media and Democracy’ Ed. Bernard Bel et. al. Media and Mediation Communication Processes pp.199-226. Sage. New Delhi.

Chatterji, P.C. 1987. Broadcasting in India. Sage. New Delhi.

Desai, A.R. 1948. The Social Background of Indian Nationalism. Popular Prakashan. Bombay.

Ghose, Sagarika 2006, ‘Indian Media: A flawed yet robust public service’ in B.G. Verghese (Ed.) Tomorrow’s India: Another tryst with destiny. Viking. New Delhi.

Joshi, P.C. 1986. Communication and Nation-Building. Publications Divison GOI. Delhi.

Jeffrey, Roger. 2000. India’s Newspaper Revolution. OUP. Delhi.

More, Dadasaheb Vimal. 1970. ‘Teen Dagdachachi Chul” in Sharmila Rege Writing Caste/Writing Gender: Narrating Dalit Women’s Testimonies. Zubaan/Kali. Delhi, 2006

Page, David and Willam Gawley. 2001. Satellites Over South Asia. Sage. New Delhi. Singhal, Arvind and E.M. Rogers. 2001. India’s Communication Revolution. Sage. New Delhi.

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