New Delhi: Overcoming
technical and commercial challenges, Urdu media in India is now
trying to re-invent itself as big corporate houses enter the
market. But the wider problem of lack of readership persists.
The advent of the digital technology has made it easier to print
Urdu. Gone are the days when 'qatibs' (calligraphers) diligently
traced out the script on to transparencies and then the letters
were inverted before printing them on a lithographic machine. Now
it is done through desktop composing and printing, just like with
Financial constraints are also easing.
According to Aziz Burney, group editor of the Roznama Rashtriya
Sahara daily, big corporate houses are now keen on entering the
market and are investing in the Urdu media - something which was
unimaginable about a decade ago.
"There is a lot more job opportunities in the Urdu media today
than what the position was in yesteryears," Burney told IANS,
painting a contrast to the times when the media was facing a lack
of good content.
The Roznama Rashtriya Sahara publishes 16 editions from 10 places
across the country and claims a readership of over three million.
It also publishes the Aalmi Sahara, a weekly newsmagazine, and the
Bazm-e-Sahara, a literary and culture monthly.
In a sign of the resurging popularity of the Urdu media, the
Dainik Jagran group started Daily Inquilab newspaper with New
Delhi, Lucknow, Allahabad, Gorakhpur and Varanasi editions. The
United News Of India's (UNI) Urdu service, which was launched in
1992 with six subscribers, now is said to have 84 subscribers in
different parts of India.
According to the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI), Urdu
stands third in terms of number of periodical publications after
Hindi and English.
However, the biggest problem is of the declining number of people
able to read Urdu. Munir Adil, editor of the Daily Salar in
Bangalore, thinks the biggest problem that the Urdu media faces
today is that of readership.
"The Urdu language is commonly used in Bollywood, but falling
number of readership of Urdu newspapers is the biggest challenge,"
Adil told IANS. "The elite class is obsessed with the English
Others in the field seek a greater stress on content.
Noting that there has been "new colour, new life and new courage
in Urdu journalism in India", Adeel Akhtar, president of
journalists union Journalism for Justice, told IANS: "The Urdu
media needs to focus on investigative journalism and the trend of
depending on news agencies should be changed now."
The view is shared by Ehtesham Ahmed Khan, associate professor at
the School of Mass Communication and Journalism in Maulana Azad
National Urdu University at Hyderabad.
"The Urdu media needs to focus on its content because content is
king," he said.
Journalists however raise several problems with regard to working
conditions. "There is no job security in the Urdu media, nor do we
have a strong union backing us," Mohammed Mubashiruddin Khurram of
The Daily Siasat said.
And gathering news is not the sole preoccupation. "We have to
gather news as well as advertisements for revenue," Alamuallah
Islahi of the Daily Sahafat newspaper told IANS.
According to Srinagar-based journalist Sareer Khalid, Urdu
journalists need to be better trained.
Going one step ahead, Rehana Bastiwala of BBC Urdu said: "For a
better Urdu media, the standard of Urdu schools should be
However, the situation in the electronic media is better.
According to Rashtriya Sahara more than 90 million people speak
Urdu in India, of whom 40 million are television viewers. There
are at least five Urdu news channels, including Doordarshan Urdu,
ETV Urdu, Aalmi Sahara and Munsif TV, apart from some others
dedicated to religious content.
"The reach of Urdu news channels is massive. A person who knows
Hindi can easily understand Urdu," Burney said.
As far as radio services is concerned, BBC Urdu, which was started
in 1940, has a big impact in India. Apart from BBC, Voice of
America, Radio Deutsche Welle and All India Radio's Urdu services
are also popular in Urdu speaking belts.
(Abu Zafar can
be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)