As a partly free media system, India has a few governmental barriers preventing access to media. They do however, face a number of cultural and technological barriers that affect its population’s access to various forms of media. According to UNICEF, 42% of the country lives below the international poverty line, and the total adult literacy rate is only 63%.
However, according to the World Bank, overall poverty levels in India have been declining and access to media is becoming more and more prevalent. Prior to the 1990s, India’s television broadcasting was limited to a single government operated channel, but with the advent of digital television in recent years, India’s television industry is rapidly gaining pace.
In 2007, approximately 105 million homes in India owned televisions, a number which has grown since 2000s figure of 88 million. Many global media corporations have entered India’s television arena, including Sony Entertainment and Disney. India’s government allows foreign media companies to won entertainment networks in India, allowing television owners a wide range of programming. Additionally, Indian companies like Zee TV offer satellite television at an additional cost, and as of 2007, 60% of television owners subscribed to cable or satellite services. Zee TV also offers channels in a variety of regional languages to cater to India’s broad range of recognized regional languages.
Although the television industry is rapidly gaining speed in India’s urban centers, much of India still faces a number of barriers against media access. In 2001, India’s census indicated that 56% of households do not even have electricity, much less access to technology. The extreme poverty that also exists in much of India is also a barrier preventing access to television ownership.
Even with a moderately low literacy rate, India has one of the largest print media in the world. There are over 350 newspapers in circulation, published in approximately 17 different languages, including Hindi and English. Catering to India’s many regional languages, there are few language barriers in print media, although the literacy rate remains an issue.
Although the government does allow unrestricted internet access, usage of the internet remains at a low 5.3% as of 2009, according to the World Bank. Poverty and the inability to afford access may be to blame for lack of internet usage: cybercafés are pricey and many Indians cannot afford computers or internet service. Currently, 37% of India’s internet users access the internet via cybercafés, 30% access it from offices, and 23% access it from home.