Mushroom Growth Of Newspapers In Kashmir

IN Media Practice | 31/08/2002
Mushroom Growth Of Newspapers In Kashmir

Mushroom Growth Of Newspapers In Kashmir

By Kousar Bukhari in Srinagar

Newspapers grow in number, but not in circulation. The mushroom growth despite a recession is baffling.

SRINAGAR In a politically sensitive state like Jammu and Kashmir, the newspaper industry has gone under enormous changes, particularly in Kashmir valley, in the past thirteen years. If the increase in number of newspapers without substantial jump in circulation is a positive trend the state has earned this distinction. Not only the addition of newspapers at local level but also the shifting of base by a number national newspapers both Hindi and English has added a new dimension to these changes.

Way back in 1989, the number of newspapers in the entire state was not more than five out of which three Urdu newspapers----Aftab, Srinagar Times and Wadi Ki Awaz--- were published from Srinagar and dominated the newspaper market for past three decades. Two English newspapers Kashmir Times and Excelsior were published from Jammu with the former having substantial circulation in Kashmir Valley. For a brief period an English daily Samachar Post was published from Srinagar being the only English daily with Greater Kashmir as the only English weekly. But Samachar Post closed down as a result of the mass exodus of Kashmiri pandits as the owner of the paper belonged to that community.

With the onset of militancy in late 1989, the publication of newspapers saw a quantum jump with this trade becoming free for all. It has now reached a level of saturation with those associated with media baffled over the trends in this industry. Even as the taste of switching over to newspapers for getting more and more news has developed in Kashmir over a period of time, the invasion of cable TV¿s has further diminished the prospects of its healthy growth. As of now the number of daily newspapers published from Srinagar is nearly 20 out of which five are English and rest Urdu newspapers.

Chattan and Ehtisab are Urdu weeklies with the former being mass circulated. From time to time English weeklies have also hit the stands but could not survive. Muslim Kashmir is the only English weekly which is regularly published. What is more interesting is that more and more newspapers are being launched from Valley but without any substantial improvement on circulation front. There has been some improvement in circulation of newspapers over a period of time but more and more newspapers coming up makes the situation somewhat messy, opines a newspaper distributor.

According to estimates the circulation of any newspapers has not made any significant headway. The highest circulation for a leading newspaper both in Urdu and English could be about 12, 000, which in any case is not comparable with a language newspaper anywhere in the country. Why has there been mushroom growth in the newspaper industry and why is it being seen as a source of livelihood at a time when big media outlets in the country are facing the worst economic recession? These are the questions, which have been lurking in the minds of every media professional.

"There are some hidden sources which are sustaining the majority of newspapers" says a senior journalist. Barring a few leading newspapers the rate of advertisements has also not been that encouraging but most of the papers do depend upon the government advertisements for which the National Conference government has hiked the rates by 50 percent in last budget. That could be sufficient for the large number of litho newspapers as for their survival the government advertisement could do well but for those published on offset it is difficult to believe that only

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