Kerala media war set to intensify

Kerala, August 20:

The launch of several new newspaper editions in Kerala has given a new dimension to ideological warfare in India’s most literate state known for its political consciousness. This week, the state capital witnessed the launch of two new editions of Malayalam newspapers.

The Mangalam daily set the ball rolling for a media war with each copy selling at just Rs 1.50, half the price of all nine major Malayalam dailies. Chandrika, the organ of the Indian Union Muslim League, also launched its edition from this city this week. Apart from these, there are close to 70 small and medium dailies in Kerala. Among those in the pipeline are a new edition of Janmabhoomi, the official organ of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and Thejus published by the National Development Front, a Muslim progressive outfit.

The Muslim community in Kerala has four dailies, with Chandrika leading the pack. Veteran journalist BRP Bhaskar said he was not surprised by the burgeoning of newspapers in Kerala.

“This is not a money-making venture...,” Bhaskar said. “More than the money it is an ideological war.” According to S Mahadevan Thampi, a top official in the Kerala government’s public relations department, there are 69 news dailies in the government’s list. “On an average, we pay close to Rs 30 million to these newspapers for government advertisements. The lion’s share is taken away by just two Malayalam and one English daily,” said Thampi.

Kerala has a population of 31 million, or close to 6.7 million households. “There is scope for newspapers because at present, less than half of Kerala’s homes subscribe to a newspaper, so there is an untapped market. So we feel the media war is set to intensify,” said the circulation manager of a leading daily. Reports indicate that on a day, close to 2.6 million newspapers reach Kerala homes.