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It is first essential to define the concept ‘Policy’.  This denotes, among other things, guidance for action and may take the form of (a) a declaration of goals and objectives; (b) a declaration of courses of action; and (c) a declaration on societal values.  A policy may be general or specific, broad or narrow, simple or complex, public or private, written or unwritten, explicit or implicit, discretionary or detailed and qualitative or quantitative. 


Communication is the dissemination of information and has been the part and parcel of human existence and so very vital for an individual’s survival.  It is the foundation for all other fields of inquiry and is the vehicle for human action.[1]  The system of dissemination of communication in the present day has undergone great changes with the development of the state of art technology and technological advances in the field of mass communication. Media forms a vital part of Communication systems globally today and takes two essential forms – the Print Media and the Electronic Media.  The basic function of mass media is to provide information, education, instruction and entertainment to the people. The media also motivates people, directly or indirectly in any community.

India is experiencing a rapidly changing media environment.  The new vistas evolved in the ‘communications revolution’ with satellite broadcasting and other advances in technology cut across national boundaries, putting the media beyond the reach of Governments and social institutions such as the family and community.  While the globalisation of the media offers the promise of greater interaction among peoples, it can also create and reinforce images, attitudes and behaviour.


            The fact that politics and communication have a natural kinship because they are essential parts of human nature was well recognised over 2300 years ago by Aristotle in his writings Politics and Rhetoric.  In the former he establishes that humans are ‘political beings [who] alone of the animals [are] furnished with the faculty of language.’[2]  And in the latter, he begins his systematic analysis of discourse by proclaiming that ‘rhetorical study, in its strict sense, is concerned with the modes of persuasion.’[3]


            The Media policy is a set of principles and norms established to guide the behaviour of communication systems and can also defined as a set of laws, rules, regulations and traditions in the field of mass communication – the rules and regulations that govern the operation of newspapers, radio, television, video and films.

            It is these rules and regulations that determine government media relationship and public access to media and telecommunication services.  These factors are extremely significant for enabling masses to avail themselves fully of media services of their choices and preference.  In fact, the absence of such options will mean regimentation and denial of basic human rights.


The debate on whether to have or not a media policy is an old one.  Time and again, policies, often called guidelines have been framed for different media activities, but a comprehensive media policy encompassing a holistic approach has never been attempted.  ‘Perhaps, the idea of having guidelines, and not a definite policy, was to provide room for manoeuvring and manipulating the media according to the convenience of the powers that be.’[4]

A free media of communication is a pre-requisite of a democratic State.  The media channelises information between the citizen and government, communicates the governmental decisions and helps the citizen shape their reactions besides acting as the primary source of information for the government on the public reactions to contemporary issues.

Being the channel of communication, it is important to determine whether the media is politically biased in its presentation of information.  The government’s decisions and actions, if presented with bias to the public and similarly the public opinion to the government, the very concept of democracy is distorted.  The media, therefore, should be of a high standard of reliability.[5]  The twin notions that (a) reporting may influence policy and (b) reporters want to influence policy through the act of reporting – are ingrained in the nature of modern journalism.  The reporter’s impact on policy whether intentional or accidental was obvious.  He can illuminate policy and notably assist in giving it sharpness and clarity; just as easily, he can prematurely expose policy and cause its destruction.[6]

The present day ‘communication be no longer regarded merely as an incidental service and its development left to chance.  Recognition of its potential warrants the formulation by all nations, and particularly developing countries, of comprehensive communication policies linked to overall social, cultural, economic and political goals’.[7]

There has been a phenomenal expansion of mass media structures in the country since independence, and more so during the last two decades.  Apart from the traditional mass media, print media and the radio – the advent of television and subsequently satellite television, video and now foreign satellite channels through cable television has completely changed the media scenario in the country as never before.  This has been perceived as a cultural invasion in many quarters since the programmes once available on their satellite channels are predominantly western and totally alien to our culture and way of life.  The established media policy of India, thus unwittingly, stands reversed now i.e., to entertain, to inform, to educate and to instruct.  The foreign electronic media have heralded the era of information in India, overloading us with information, thus paving the way for us to pass from the age of information into the age of communication noise.  Determined as they are to teach us the Indians at large, the art and craft of consumerism and creating an advertisement blitz to create a society purely driven by ‘market forces’, consequently bringing about the distortion of the value orientations of the Indian society.

The foreign electronic medial also exerts an indirect influence on us by influencing the very behaviour of our media.[8]  Thus, either in their effort to be in the race, or in their eagerness to learn from their foreign counterparts, the domestic electronic media too, will only reinforce the overall design of the foreign electronic media on India.  All these new found realities in the Indian media scenario are sure to falsify what Mahatma Gandhi had said:” I want the cultures of all lands to blow as freely as possible in India, but I refuse to be swept off my feet any of them.”  Now, the pious wish of the Mahatma stands shattered by the invasion of the foreign electronic media.[9]

The haphazard growth of the broadcast media in India is attributed to their role, as that of the media generally, not being perceived as part of a well defined national communications policy which embraces everything to do with articulation, including education and culture, and physical movement.[10] Mehra Masani attributed the lack of progress in organised broadcasting to the absence of communication policy 35 years after start of organised broadcasting; radio listening is still very restricted in spite of the extension of the radio network.[11]

The need for formulation a media policy has of late been increasingly felt due to the astoundingly phenomenal strides that have been taken in national and international communication and media scenario, besides being a fundamental requisite for a country’s image and PR effort. The importance and necessity for a Media policy is further augmented because of the increasingly complex nature of various global communication systems and require more planning and supervision and the expansion of international communication has to be supported by internal measures.  The policy does not necessarily imply rigid, centralised planning, but may simply constitute a favourable framework for the coordination of activities, allowing flexibility and a wide choice of approaches to communication strategies.[12]

The formulation of communication policies should (a) serve to marshal national resources; (b) strengthen the coordination of existing or planned infrastructure; (c) facilitate national choices with regard to means; (d) help to satisfy the needs of the most disadvantaged and to eliminate the most flagrant imbalances; (e) emphasize universal and continuing education; (f) help in strengthening cultural identity and national independence; (g) enable all countries and all cultures to play a more prominent role on international scene.[13]

The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of press under Article 19(i)(a), yet the state of the national media policies is indeed intriguing.  While the print media, particularly the daily press, are under the control of the private sector and operate as individual enterprises like other private industrial units, the national electronic media are under direct control of the union government through information and broadcasting ministry.  In addition, whereas the private daily and periodical press is basically profit-motivated and generally abide by journalistic norms, standards and social responsibilities, for the state-owned electronic media, perpetuation and dissemination of the national government’s policies and programmes are the prime functions. 


            The First Five Year Plan (1950-56) recognised the necessity to develop all the available methods of communication and the people be approached through the written and spoken word and above all, steps will have to be taken to provide literature and information for the people in simple language and on a scale equal to the needs of the country.

            The Second Five Year Plan document stressed that ‘the plan has to be carried into every home in the language and the symbol of the people and expressed in terms of their common needs and problems.’  It also outlined the measures for expansion of plan publicity through the mass media of communication.

Intensification of the existing arrangements for bringing home the implications of rapid development and carrying the message of the plan to the masses throughout the country was proposed in Third Five Year Plan.

            The Fourth plan felt the need to inform the people in the rural areas and particularly those in backward regions, about the specific schemes in agriculture, forestry, road construction, marketing, the supply of credit and other inputs so that the benefits of these programmes are more widely stressed.

            Expansion of television network to provide much needed support to education and to promote social and economic development was stressed in the Fifth Five Year Plan.

            From the Sixth Five Year Plan onwards, fund allocation for electronic media and particularly television progressively increased which led to massive expansion of television.

            The objectives of the media policy in the Seventh Five Year Plan were: (i) national and emotional integration of various regions of the country; (ii) utilisation of the medium as a means of development and social uplift; and (iii) dissemination of information and entertainment.  The plan envisaged the objective of the television reaching the remotest parts of the country through a three-tier service – primary service, national service and local service.  The major thrust of the Seventh Plan relating to information and broadcasting sector was on raising the level of consciousness of the people.  It laid emphasis on skilful synthesis of traditional and folk forms of communication on one hand and modern audio-visual media including satellite communication on the other. 

            The thrust of the Eighth Five Year Plan has also been to consolidate the achievements of earlier plans by suitably augmenting the production facilities at the existing centres and replacing equipment, which has outlived its useful life.  The Eighth Plan visualised an unprecedented growth in terms of extension of coverage, satellite services, software schemes and production facilities. 

Even in the earlier Five Year Plans the role of media had been greatly emphasised to provide communication support and inform the general public about the objectives, targets and benefits of the plans.



The first and foremost objective of India’s media policy should be to preserve and strengthen the democratic way of life besides disseminating the information to the masses about the developments taking place in national and international spheres affecting their daily life and should thus quicken the process of development.  It should also help, inspire, motivate and enthuse the people to support and cooperate in nation-building, economic progress, social development, imbibe national cultural values and education.[15]  The policy has to assist coordination and cooperation among the multifarious national and international agencies; promote rational thinking and deal with national problems in a logical and systematic manner.  The most crucial objective, however, is to bring about overall wider acceptance of programmes for national development keeping the fast changing global communication scenario.[16]

Mass communication efforts should be directed at inculcating an abiding faith among the people in democratic institutions such as free and fair elections, rule of law, independence of judiciary, freedom of press, secular character of state, etc.  Media policy should be directed toward the provision of those goods and services, which meet basic needs and the yardstick for measuring the degrees, and effectiveness of development should be some index of the extent to which the basic needs are fulfilled.

Any policy of culture and communication should be built within a paradigm, which is both holistic and integrative, so as to combine the local reality, people’s perception and needs and desired aspects of change. 

Media strategies for rural development will have to be essentially geared to the ethos and relevance to the people whom development plans are intended to benefit.  The basis of media strategies should highlight the localness of approach and dissemination of culturally appropriate and user-friendly technology thereby would succeed in creating the right kind of climate and environment of development only within the parameters and constraints, which are associated with the rural population; these strategies would have to be innovative, realistic and shaped to the aspiration of the people specifically inhabiting rural and remote areas.[17]

The need for a media policy, therefore, is emphatic in the present day context of growing exasperating rural situations.  There is a need to divert the media with the specific focus on rural sector and its communication through local dialect.  


            The new communication technologies being relatively expensive exacerbate inequalities in access to information between the information rich and information poor in a system, since it is only the socio-economic elite who can afford these new media.  This widening of information chasm will continue unless strategies are explicitly followed to prevent it.

No media policy can succeed without defining political and economic goals explicitly and implicitly.  Democratic planning under a parliamentary democracy has been defined as ‘democratic persuasion to bring about the participation and co-operation of all’ and should involve all groups from the villages to the National Government at all levels and has to use and strengthen democratic institutions to administer for a speedy development.






[1]Robert E. Denton Jr.: Political Communication in America (New York: Praeger, 1990)

[2]Aristotle: The Politics of Aristotle (Tr.) Ernest Barker (New York, 1970), p.5

[3]Aristotle: Rhetoric (Tr.) Rhys Roberts (New York, 1954) p.  22

[4]Nandini Prasad: V.S. Gupta & Rajeshwar Dyal (Ed.):National Media Policy

   (New Delhi, 1996)  VI, p. 46

[5]R.K. Sapru: Public Policy – Formulation, Implementation and Evaluation (New Delhi, 1994) p.51

[6]Washington reporter Douglass Cater – quoted Robert J Spitzer in Media and Public Policy

   (Connecticut, 1993) I, p. 2

[7]Report of Sean Mac Bride Commission (1982) – quoted V.S. Gupta & Rajeshwar Dyal (Ed.):  

   National Media Policy (New Delhi, 1996) preface

[8]P.C. Chatterji: Broadcasting in India (New Delhi, 1993)


[10]Akash Bharti Report, 1978 - quoted Ibid

[11]Mehra Masani: Broadcasting and the People – quoted Ibid.

[12]Mac Bride Commission: op. cit. p.11


[14]The Five Year Plans, New Delhi: Planning Commission, Government of India – quoted

    V.S. Gupta & Rajeshwar Dyal op. cit. VII pp.55-56

[15]P.C. Joshi: Communication and Nation Building: Perspective and Policy. 

    Sardar Patel Memorial Lectures (New Delhi, 1985)


[17]Vir Bala Aggarwal: Mass Media in Rural Development: Some Research Issues.

    Communicator, (December, 1992), pp. 14-15