The term mass media or media was coined around the 19th century. Since it evolved in the 19th century, it cannot be inferred that there was no communication or means of expression amongst the masses earlier. The term was coined after the print media gained the attention of the people and magnified in impact. Before that, the news and other information would be transmitted through messengers, drum rolls, or even hearsay.


With industrialization and globalization, types of media and its scope kept getting amplified due to electronic media- television, video, radio, and print media, which included magazines, pamphlets, etc. It also expanded the media’s duties since they were the point of contact between the people creating news and those receiving it. They were cast with the responsibility to safeguard both the nation and people’s interest since the news being covered was no longer territorial; it was worldwide, cutting across boundaries. At the initial stages, the media was controlled and financed by the political parties and other organizations to propagate their agenda; they were, however, owned by public or private companies and capitalist investors[1]. It was a significant step since the media was expected to be neutral and not politicized towards one specific political ideology or mandate.

The media can primarily be categorized on the basis of technology:


Electronic Media, which may further be categorized as: 

  • Broadcasting media
  • Film
  • Video games
  • Audio-video record
  • Internet 
  • Mobile phones


Print Media, which may further be categorized as:

  • Newspapers
  • Books   
  • Magazines 

The growth and amplification of media can be assigned to various factors. One common factor between all these factors is its close relationship with the multiple elements of society. Media grew out to be the primary and significant communication source amongst the masses out there for various institutions. They had the potential to influence, engage, and encourage innovations in society. They started sharing power with the major players in running a state since it became a platform to broadcast the daily affairs nationally and internationally. And this broadcasting power enabled them to gain control over the construction and notions of customs, culture, and mannerisms in a group or society. Talking about the entertainment side, they became the cornerstone of promotions and the primary key to society’s fame and status. They also started contributing to the economy by providing employment and economic benefits to the business enterprises, advertisers, and itself. The relationship of the media with society can be cultural and materialistic. When it comes to social-cultural relationships, the media shapes the social factors and views its significance in social life. The media is seen as a consequence of various economic and materialist factors rather than the society and social institutions from the social materialistic perspective.


The media, irrespective of the electronic or print, has six primary functions:

  1. Every democracy requires or survives due to the media, also known as the fourth estate, which informs the people of the developments and affairs happening in various sectors of the society- politics, technology, lifestyle, economy, entertainment, etc. It is the main source of all valid and accurate information irrespective of the sensationalization. It also forms the crux of creating a society informed of a common man’s struggles and achievements in society.
  2. The media also has to ensure that everybody correlates with the information which they provide. They have to give away to reduce the friction between the people and the experts, authorities while giving a piece of information. Thus, they explain, interpret, and comment on people’s decisions, norms, duties, and rights in a society or state.
  3. When the media provides continuous and timely updates on the happenings in a society, it ensures that there is a developed and civilized society due to the influence and impact they create amongst the masses.
  4. The media, apart from establishing social order and keeping the authorities in check, the media helps provide the masses relaxation and relief from the social tension. Recent research has held that the media’s entertainment helps regain the physical and psychological balance, which is usually drained due to stress and strain. It enables the members of society to feel competent, challenged, independent, and determined.[2]
  5. When the media campaigns and creates awareness in economics, war, politics, climate, and various other socio- economic issues, it mobilizes everybody’s attention in society. As a result, people, experts, and authorities from all backgrounds, irrespective of the background and divisions, develop and reconstruct society for its betterment.
  6. Economics and the market play a vital role than we understand in the media sector. In a normal influence between the advertisers and the viewers, the media content pattern is matched with the audience’s consumption interest. It is the scenario in capitalist countries; it is easy to reflect on. However, in some instances, the advertisers intervene in the publication of the decisions and media’s interest beyond what they are authorized within the regulations.[3]



It is imperative to be aware that in the 18th century, there were no media laws that existed even though the western culture brought along with it the press and print media. It was in 1799 that Governor-General Wellesley established the first regulation. The same was done to stabilize the demand for freedom of the press.

The same was done to ensure an instrument to stabilize the demand for freedom of the press[4]. As per the regulation, the press had to submit their manuscripts to be published for verification and check by the government’s secretary. They also had to print the names of the writers, publishers, and editors. However, this pre-censorship regulation came to an end when Lord Hastings upheld that the editor will be solely responsible for the articles that affect the government’s authority; was also the time when due to the constant and massive campaigns of Buckingham and Ram Mohan Roy, the government understood the significant role that the press plays in the administration of a state. In 1823, and 1825 certain regulations were passed, which emphasized the requirement of possessing a license from the governor-general to print and publish matters that are not commercial. The magistrates were given the power to dispose of the unlicensed printing press.

These regulations were replaced by the Press act 1835, also known as the Metcalfe’s Act. Under this Act, the requirement of license was repealed, and it enumerated the duty of the printer and publisher to publish the address of their premises. Furthermore, Lord Macaulay opined that the previous ordinance and regulations were repressive, and they were not beneficial for the governments’ security, and that was an issue since the government did not have the capacity for security or emergency legislation[5].The Press Act, 1835 was held as the most liberal press Act in Indian History[6].

Lord Canning introduced Act XV of 1857, which did not differentiate between the Indian and European publications. It also brought back and introduced the main features of the regulation of 1823. One of the significant advancement was the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which was not directed at the press, but contained provisions relating to the offense of defamation, obscenity. In the later stages, the offense of sedition[7], promoting enmity[8], any assertion which threatened the national integration[9] and outraging religious beliefs[10] were added. The first enactment explicitly against the press was passed in 1867- the Press and Registration of Books Act. It was more or less similar to the regulations of 1835. As per the enactment, every paper printed must print the printer’s name, the printing location, and the name of publication and publisher. Further, every press has to issue a declaratory statement, as mentioned in the Act. In 1878, the Vernacular Press Act was passed, and it empowered the government with additional powers to keep in control of the seditious writing and punish for the same. However, in 1880 the Act was repealed by Gladstone.


In the 19th century, the Indian Press Act, 1910, was passed. It was considered the harshest of provisions by far. It required the printing press to make a deposit and on the forfeiture of the same will take place when the matters in the print media tend to directly or indirectly through interference, suggestion, allusion, metaphor, the implication to incite to, to kill, or to create any offense under the Explosive Substance Act, 1908 or any other Act of violence or instigation which disrupts peace, law, and order. Moreover, the printing press has to make another fresh deposit when the first is forfeited, and the same would be a higher amount. However, the same was repealed in 1922 by the Press Law Repeal and Amendment Act, 1922. The Indian Press( Emergency Powers) Act, 1931, was enacted to curb terrorist activities. At its core, the Act was against the publication of any such matter which encourages or incited violence and commission of murder or cognizable offenses. The Act was amended in the year 1932 by a criminal law amendment which stated that any printing press which would publish matters that encouraged the commission of such offense would result in forfeiture of their deposit and this forfeiture could be enforced by the provincial government.

In 1947, the interim government created and appointed a press enquiry committee. The report examined the press laws in the country, and the same was submitted on May 22nd, 1948. As a result of the report, the Act was repealed in 1951 by the Press (Objectionable Matter Act) 1951. However, since there was huge demand and uproar about the press’s freedom, the 1951 Act lapsed in 1956 and expired in 1957.


As seen above, there was a surge in demand for the press’s freedom in the pre-constitutional era due to the complete governmental control over them. It was a crucial point while drafting the constitution of India after independence. Thus, Article 19(1)(a) was incorporated after huge debates and discussion. The right and freedom of the press were recognized under “freedom of speech and expression”. At the same time, it is pertinent to understand that this freedom is not absolute and is subject to the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, and security, decency, and public order of India. It is also subject to the friendly relation with other states and is seen in relation to contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to an offense.[11] This article extends to the newspapers and periodicals and includes pamphlets, leaflets, handbills, circulars, and every other form of publication that provides for information and opinion within its scope.[12]

When it comes to the Indian legislations, various forms of media have a certain set of legislations. We do not have one set of standard regulations for the media as a whole. The legislations have evolved for some time from 1956 to date. And during this period, there have been amendments and repeals over the same.


The censorship law was challenged in the Supreme Court as violative of speech and expression fundamental rights. The Supreme Court held that pre-censorship of films was justified under Article 19(2) since the movie has to be separated from other forms of art and expression since they have a more comprehensive and amplified impact. Thus, the classification of the categories “A” and “U” was very much necessary.[13] When faced with a question regarding advertisements and its relationship with freedom of speech and expression, the Supreme Court declared that commercial ads do not fall within the ambit of Article 19(1)(a).[14] However, in another case, the supreme court held that advertisements of commercial nature fall within the scope of article 19. They are subject to the government’s regulation if they are deceptive, misleading, and untruthful.[15]


The media, over two centuries, has expanded and amplified into a broad spectrum. It cannot be restricted to traditional or regressive notions. It is known as the fourth estate because its influence on the people and government is something that no other state has. For the same reason, it has numerous laws that govern them. The media laws play a vital role in keeping them in check and ensuring that a sector with considerable powers does not abuse it. It is also significant to note that the right to freedom of speech and expression is closely related to the laws, and over time and again, it has been and still is a hugely debated issue.


[1] Sigurd Aller & Mark Blach., “The News Media As A Political Institution”, Journalism Studies 92,(2011).

[2] Leonard Reinecke, “Entertaining Media use and the satisfaction of Recovery Needs: recovery outcomes, Associated with the use of Interactive and non-interactive Entertaining media”, Media Psychology 192, (2011).

[3] Joe Marconi, Image Marketing : Using Public Perceptions to Attain Business Objectives,(1992).

[4] Press commission of India, 1st Report of the Press Commission, 1954.

[5] Justice E. S. Venkataramiah, Freedom Of Press: Some Recent Trends, (Delhi, Pub. Corp. 1987).

[6] Sharad Karkhanis, Indian Politics and Role of Press, (Asia Book of Amer, March 1, 1981).

[7] The Indian Penal Code,1860, s. 124A.

[8] The Indian Penal Code,1860, s. 153A.

[9] The Indian Penal Code,1860, s. 153B.

[10] The Indian penal code,1860, s. 295A.

[11] The Constitution of India, art.19.

[12] Sakal Papers Ltd. V. Union of  India, AIR 1962 SC 305.

[13] K. A. Abbas v. Union of India, AIR 1971 SC 481.

[14] Hamdard Dawakhana v. Union of India, AIR 1960 SC 554.

[15] Tata Press Ltd. V. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (1995) 5 SCC 139.


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