With well over a billion people and a literacy rate approaching 75 percent, India produces in excess of a staggering 5000 daily papers in more than three hundred languages, plus another 40,000 journals and weeklies. There are a large number of English-language daily newspapers, both national and regional.
Newspapers and magazines
The most prominent of the nationals are the Times of India, The Hindu, The Deccan Chronicle, The Hindustan Times, 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, although Kolkata’s The Telegraph tends to have better coverage of world news than the rest. The Asian Age, published simultaneously in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and London is a conservative tabloid that sports a motley collection of the world’s more colourful stories. The Times of India, The Hindu and The Hindustan Times provide the most up-to-date and detailed online 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, 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. Also worth checking out are samachar.com, one of the best news gateway sites, featuring headlines and links to leading Indian newspapers, and alternative news webzine tehelka.com, famous for exposing corruption scandals in government.
Film fanzines and gossip mags are very popular – Filmfare and the online-only Screen are the best, though you’d have to be reasonably au fait with Indian movies to follow a lot of it. Other magazines and periodicals in English cover all sorts of popular and minority interests, so it’s worth having a look through what’s available.
Expat-oriented bookstalls, such as those in New Delhi’s Khan Market, stock slightly out-of-date and expensive copies of magazines like Vogue.
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, Chennai and six other cities; the USIS is the American equivalent. The UK’s Guardian website is one of the best online news resources, with an extensive archive of articles and an excellent dossier on Kashmir. Access is free.
Radio and TV
BBC World Service radio can be picked up at 94.3FM in most major cities, on short wave on frequencies ranging from 5790–15310kHz, and on more sporadically medium wave (AM) at 1413KHz (212m) between about 8.30am and 10.30pm (Indian time). It also broadcasts online. The Voice of America can be found on 15.75MHz (19) and (75.75MHz (39.5m), among other frequencies. Radio Canada 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, many of them showing magnificently colourful religious and devotional programmes.