With well over a billion people and a literacy rate approaching seventy percent, India produces a staggering 4700 daily papers in more than three hundred languages, plus another 39,000 journals and weeklies. There are a large number of English-language daily newspapers, both national and regional.
The most prominent of the nationals are the Times of India, The Hindu, The Deccan Chronicle, The Hindustan Times, The Telegraph, The Economic Times and the New Indian Express (usually the most critical of the government). All are pretty dry and sober, concentrating on Indian news; The Independent and Kolkata’s Telegraph tend to have better coverage of world news than the rest. Asian Age, published simultaneously in India, London and New York, is a conservative tabloid that sports a motley collection of the world’s more colourful stories. All the major Indian newspapers have websites, with the Times of India, The Hindu and the Hindustan Times providing the most up-to-date and detailed news services.
India’s press is the freest in Asia and attacks on the government are often quite outspoken. However, as in the West, most papers can be seen as part of the political establishment, and are unlikely to print anything that might upset the “national consensus”.
There are also a number of Time/Newsweek-style news magazines, with a strong emphasis on politics. The best of these are India Today and Frontline, published by The Hindu. Others include Outlook, which presents the most readable, broadly themed analysis, Sunday and The Week. As they give more of an overview of stories and issues than the daily papers, you will probably get a better insight into Indian politics, and most tend to have a higher proportion of international news, too. Business India is more financially oriented and The India Magazine more cultural. Film fanzines and gossip mags are very popular (Screen and Filmfare are the best, though you’d have to be reasonably au fait with Indian movies to follow a lot of it), but magazines and periodicals in English cover all sorts of popular and minority interests, so it’s worth having a look through what’s available.
Foreign publications such as the International Herald Tribune, Time and The Economist are all available in the main cities, though it’s easier (and cheaper) to read the day’s edition for free online. For a read through the British press, try the British Council in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai; the USIS is the American equivalent. Expat-oriented bookstalls, such as those in New Delhi’s Khan Market, stock slightly out-of-date and expensive copies of magazines like Vogue and NME.
BBC World Service radio (w bbc.co.uk/worldservice) can be picked up at 94.3FM in most major cities, on short wave on frequencies ranging from 5790–15310kHz, and on medium wave (AM) at 1413KHz (212m) between about 8.30am and 10.30pm (Indian time). It also broadcasts online. The Voice of America (w voa.gov) can be found on 15.75MHz (19) and (75.75MHz (39.5m), among other frequencies. Radio Canada (w rcinet.ca) broadcasts in English on 6165 and 7255KHz (48.6 and 41.3m) at 6.30–7.30am and on 9635 and 11,975 KHz (31 and 25m) at 8.30–9.30pm.
The government-run TV company, Doordarshan, which broadcasts a sober diet of edifying programmes, has tried to compete with the onslaught of mass access to satellite TV. The main broadcaster in English is Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV network, which incorporates the BBC World Service and Zee TV (with Z News), a progressive blend of Hindi-oriented chat, film, news and music programmes. Star Sports, ESPN and Ten Sports churn out a mind-boggling amount of cricket, extensive coverage of English Premier League football, plenty of tennis and a few other sports. Other channels include CNN, the Discovery Channel, the immensely popular Channel V, hosted by scantily clad Mumbai models and DJs, and a couple of American soap and chat stations. There are now numerous local-language channels as well.
News and media online
w guardian.co.uk/world/india High-quality news features are the meat of this “Special Report” section of the Guardian’s award-winning website, which also has links to its archived India articles and an excellent dossier on Kashmir. Access is free.
w indiatoday.digitaltoday.in Homepage of India’s best-selling news magazine.
w samachar.com One of the best news gateway sites, featuring headlines and links to leading Indian newspapers.
w tehelka.com Alternative news webzine, famous for exposing corruption scandals in government.
w timesofindia.indiatimes.com, w thehindu.com, w hindustantimes.com and w deccanherald.com Websites of some of India’s leading daily papers, with detailed national coverage.