As per the latest data available with Government, more than lakh newspapers/periodicals are registered with many of them existing only on paper. The largest number of such registrations is in Uttar Pradesh and in the Hindi language. Despite this, thousands of applications are received every year for fresh registrations. This could be to take advantage of the advertisement policy of the Government.
The Hindu revealed that a large number of registered newspapers/periodicals only exist on paper and that advertisements worth crores of rupees are given to these newspapers. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Most such newspapers are empanelled with the State Governments and a few of them with the Government of India.
Number of Newspapers
As per the data available with the Government, a total of 1,05,443 newspapers/periodicals are registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) as on 31st March, 2015. Uttar Pradesh tops the list with more than 16000 registrations followed by Maharashtra with more than 14000. Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh & Rajasthan follow in that order. Ten states have more than 5000 registered Newspapers/periodicals. Eighteen (18) States/UTs have less than 1000 registrations each.
Language of Newspapers
As expected, most number are registered in Hindi (42493) followed by English (13661), Marathi (7818), Gujarati (4836) and Urdu (4770). Newspapers are registered in a total of 23 different languages. The lowest number are registered in Dogri Language (2), followed by Kashmiri (5) and Bodo (5).
Growth of Newspapers
Despite such a large number of newspapers, the request for fresh registrations is increasing every year. Some of the requests for registration are rejected under Section 6 of The Press & Registration of Books Act, 1867 (PRB Act) on the grounds of same as or similar to that of any existing newspaper published either in the same language or in the same State. The number of requests for such fresh newspapers rose by more than 80% from 2012-13 to 2014-15. The number of rejections is more or less than the same in the last three years.
Why are there so many?
There is a great need for newspapers & periodicals of different hues/subjects especially at a time when media houses are also taking sides. But the problem like ‘The Hindu’ pointed out is that quite a few of them exist only on paper and they exist to take advantage of the government policy to encourage small & medium newspapers by reserving a certain percentage of government advertisements to such publications.
As on date, a total of 7762 publications are empanelled with Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), Government of India. Many more such publications are empanelled with the Information & Public Relations (I & PR) department of various State Governments. For instance, more than 200 such small publications are empanelled with the Government of Andhra Pradesh.
Is there a cause for concern?
As per the annual report (2013-14) of ‘The Registrar of Newspapers for India’, less than 20% of the registered publications filed their annual statements as required under Section 19(D) of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867. This is great cause for concern. Like many NGOs who violate FCRA norms, there is a need for stringent regulation of these publications, especially those empanelled with various agencies of the State & Central Government and are receiving advertisements from the respective governments.
- Unstarred question No 7019, answered on 8th May, 2015 in the Lok Sabha, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
- Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), Government of India