India's Newspaper Revolution: Capitalism, Politics and the Indian-Language Press, 1977-1999

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Book Reviews

Jeffrey, Robin. India's Newspaper Revolution: Capitalism, Politics and the Indian-Language Press, 1977-1999. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000. 234 pp. $65.

India's Newspaper Revolution is a significant contribution to mass communication history for which Australian author Robin Jeffrey deserves academic applause. At a macro level, this book symbolizes a pioneering effort to make cohesive an area of journalism history that enables us to move one "book-step" forward in understanding the nature of local language newspaper journalism in a postcolonial context. More specifically, this book contributes towards a historical and theoretical understanding of the role of Indian-language newspapers in impacting political ideology and grassroots participation in the largest democracy in the world. It does so with a primary focus on post-independence institutional, political and economic changes, and locates the catalyst for the "revolution" in the tight muzzle that was imposed on press freedom during the national emergency enforced by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's administration between 1975 and 1977.

Furthermore, Jeffrey's skillful temporal navigation and dialectic approach throughout the book permits a non-linear historical explication of the dynamics between the postcolonial politics of local newspaper journalism, the role of the latter in activating a uniquely Indian public sphere, the impact of print-capitalism during the second half of the twentieth century, and the role of the resultant "imagined community" in solidifying a sense of nationhood. Interspersed with details about local scripts and language, printing technology, newspaper audit information and descriptive maps and photographs, Jeffrey's book strikes a comfortable balance between hard facts and ethnographic accounts. This approach provides the reader who is unfamiliar with the country and the context with an important perspective on the societal factors that shape and are shaped by the Indian-language press. These include the increasing role of advertising and marketing in the newspaper industry, the changing relationship between the elite English-language press and the Indian-language press, effects of the under representation of minority groups and women in the industry, the various levels of reporting and ownership structures, the impact of new technologies, and the complex power and market relations between politicians, newspaper owners, editors, reporters and readers. …