History of Oriya Journalism

Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee
Professor and Head of the Institute
Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC)
Sanchar Marg, Dhenkanal-759001, Orissa (India)

Like in several other provinces in India, journalism in Orissa had its genesis first in missionary activity and later in the reformist and national movement. The Mission Press in Cuttack, which was set up in 1837 to print the New Testament also brought out the first Oriya journals Gyanaruna (1849) and Prabodha Chandrika (1856).

The first Oriya newspaper to be printed was the weekly Utkal Dipika by Gouri Shankar Ray in 1866. Utkal Dipika owed its birth to the upsurge of nationalism during the late nineteenth century. It played a significant role in sociopolitical life of Orissa.

A number of newspapers were published in Oriya in the last three and half decades of the 19th century, prominent among them were Utkal Dipika, Utkal Patra and Utkal Hiteisini from Cuttack; Utkal Darpan and Sambada Vahika from Balasore, Sambalpur Hiteisini from Deogarh, etc.

In the early part of twentieth century swadeshi movement in Bengal had gained momentum and it had great impact on Orissa's political and social life. This period was also marked for the spread of journalism in different parts of Orissa and publication of more papers from Ganjam and Cuttack.

The first Oriya Daily Dainik Asha was published from Berhampur in 1928 by Sashibhusan Rath. It was a turning point in the history of Oriya journalism. It demonstrated the power of press in uniting people for a cause- in this case first unification of the outlying Oriya areas under one administration and then freedom movement.

Pandit Gopabandhu Das founded Samaja as a weekly in 1919 to support the cause of freedom struggle of the country. It was made a daily in 1930. Samaja played an important role in freedom movement in Orissa. So did papers like Prajatantra.

Post independence Orissa saw expansion in the media both in number of newspapers and circulation. It also saw an attitudinal change. From being a mission- it slowly began to turn as a profession. It also became a stepping-stone for many to enter politics. Politics and literature has had a very close relation with Oriya journalism. Journalism as a separate, distinct profession with specialized set of skills began to gain ground very slowly after independence. It gained momentum only after 80s.

It was in 80s that a change swept through Oriya media. As Robin Jeffrey wrote1, "Until the 1980s, Oriya newspapers fell starkly into a particular category: they were put out by people of influence to demonstrate and bolster that influence." Unlike the other states Orissa had a press managed by politicians, and not businessmen.  Some newspapers were run at a loss because their proprietors valued the prestige and leverage within the tiny elite that dominated Orissa politics from the 1930s. Circulation, technology, advertising and profit were not the key considerations of owners; status, influence and 'education' were.

But in the 1980s, this began to change. Between 1981 and 1991, daily circulations quadrupled and the proportion of Oriya newspaper readers went from roughly 7 per 1,000 to 22 per 1,000. By 1992, circulation of Oriya newspapers had moved from being the lowest of 12 major languages to being eighth, ahead of Telugu, Kannada, and Punjabi.

Sambad, a daily launched by Soumya Ranjan Pattnaik spearheaded the change.  In fact many scholars2 believe that Oriya newspaper industry came of age with Sambad. The credit for introducing many firsts in Orissa media industry goes to Sambad including introduction of photo type setting and offset printing. This was a turning point in newspaper industry in Orissa from technical as well as content and layout point of view.

The nineties saw more expansion in the media scene with publication of more Oriya dailies and consolidation of the established ones. Several major Oriya dailies also started publishing from more centers in the state, a trend started by Sambad with their first edition from Berhampur in 1990. Almost all major dailies started regularly printing in colour. All of them began to publish several supplements and pull out. Competition for readership began to hot up, which had definite influence on the look and content of newspapers, also on the marketing style and strategy.

Present Status of Oriya newspapers:

National Readership Survey (NRS) 2006 had encouraging figures for Oriya media. The total readership has crossed 1 crore. Three leading papers: Sambad, Samaja and Dharitri together have close to 55-lakh readerships. Sambad leads the readership with 20.39 lakh readership followed by Samaja (18.97 lakh) and Dharitri (14.45 lakh). All the three leading papers have increased their readership in comparison to last year. Here is comparative data:

             2005     2006

Sambad  17.70    20.39
Samaja  17.43     18.97
Dharitri   12.00      14.45

(Source: NRS-2005/v-3.00, NRS- 2006/V-1.00. Readership in lakh)

Number of newspapers and periodicals also had increased substantially. At the end of 1964 there were 70 papers published in Oriya language (four dailies, nine weeklies, 38 monthlies and 19 other periodicals). By 2010 there were as many as 52 dailies approved by the I &PR Department of Orissa. According to the Registrar of Newspapers of India (RNI) figures 2007-08 there were 1032 publications in Oriya including 107 dailies and 247 weeklies.

Oriya newspapers and periodicals are published from many places, even from small townsin Orissa and several cities outside the State, where there is a sizable Oriya reading population like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Vijaynagaram. 

Many mainstream newspapers have multiple and multi-location editions from several places of the state and also from outside the state where there is sizable Oriya population, and potential for substantial advertisement revenue.

Besides the mainstream newspapers, Orissa has a sizable but not necessarily financially and ethically healthy rural press. Rural press in Orissa is largely imitating the urban, mainstream media- in terms of content and presentation. Instead of focusing on the rural population in its content, which ought to and could have been their strong point most of the rural press are poor copy of the urban press.


The first radio station in Orissa was set up at Cuttack. All India Radio, Cuttack started functioning from January 28, 1948 with a 1-kilowatt Medium Wave transmitter.  It started its Vividh Bharti operation in 1962 and commercial broadcasting service in 1975.

By mid 2011, there were 11 AIR stations in Orissa located in Cuttack, Jeypore, Sambalpur, Bhwanipatna, Baripada, Keonjhar, Rourkela, Bolangir, Berhampur, Puri and Joranda. Four more radio stations at Soro, Rairangpur, Raygada and Gajapati- were almost ready for commissioning. There were five private FM stations in Orissa; four (Radio Choklate, Big FM, S FM and Red FM) in Bhubaneswar and one (Radio Choklate) in Rourkela. Radio Choklate, the first private FM radio station in Orissa went on air on May 4, 2007. Eastern Media Limited, which publishes the Oriya daily Sambad, owns this station. The second private FM station to go on air was Big FM. It went on air on May 17, 2007. This was the seventeenth Big FM radio station, owned by Adlabs Films.

The first Community Radio Station3 (CRS) in Orissa- Radio Namaskar4  started functioning from Konark from July 11, 2010. It is run by a NGO (Non Government Organisation) Young India. Ravenshaw Autonomous University, Cuttack started its campus radio in 2010.

Local News on AIR is broadcast from AIR, Cuttack since the day it has been set up in 1948. However, news from AIR, Cuttack station was put on air on 26 May, 1958. Ten years later, on September 8, 1968, it started broadcasting news in the morning hours. Midday news of five minutes duration was introduced on 2000. Regional news of two minutes duration every hour was introduced in FM Rainbow of Cuttack from August 4, 2006. Besides news bulletins, AIR, Cuttack news section produces a number of current affair programmes on a daily basis.


The entry of television in Orissa was through the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) conducted in 1975-76, the first experiment with satellite technology in India. It was also the first attempt anywhere in the world of using this sophisticated technology for social education.

SITE in Orissa covered the districts of Dhenkanal, Sambalpur, and Phulbani. Oriya programmes were produced at the base production centre at Cuttack. In 1978, the district of Sambalpur was selected under the SITE continuity programme and a terrestrial transmitter of 1 kw was set up there. During the ASIAD in 1982, Bhubaneswar was provided with a LPT. Subsequently a HPT was set up in Cuttack in 1985. In 1987, Oriya programmes for a limited time span were started. In the following year a daily Oriya news bulletin was started. In
1991, the regional up linking facility was made available to network in Orissa. A new studio complex in Bhubaneswar saw the production work shifted to the state capital in 1992. In the 80s and 90s, a number of Low Power Transmitters were established in different parts of the state. At present besides Bhubaneswar, studio facilities are available in DD Sambalpur and DD Bhawanipatna.

Orissa Television (OTV)5 claims to be the first private electronic media in the state of Orissa. It was launched in 1997 in the twin cities of Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack.  In January 2007, O-TV started airing through satellite, expanding its reach. From being a variety channel, it became an exclusively 24x7 news channel. Three more content-specific channels were subsequently launched by O-TV: Taranga (entertainment), Prarthana (religion) and a music channel.

Enadu Television (E-TV), Hyderabad-based media conglomerate of Ramoji Rao launched its Oriya channel in 2002. This was the first Oriya private satellite channel. It quickly became popular.  Although E-TV Oriya is a variety channel with strong entertainment content, it telecasts news round the clock, besides having other event-driven and occasion-oriented news-based programmes. It has pioneered many news-based programmes in Oriya. In fact it set a bench mark in election coverage.

Four more satellite channels with Oriya programming were launched in 2009: Naxatra, Kamyab TV, Josh TV and Kanak TV. While Naxatra and Kanak were news channels, the other two were channels with both news and fiction programming. Kanak TV comes from the stable of Eastern Media Ltd, the media conglomerate, which owns the Oriya daily Sambad and FM Radio station Radio Choklate.  Kanak TV went on air on October 4, 2009, the day Sambad was launched in 1984. Several entertainment-focused channels was launched in 2009 and 2010 like Ekamra TV, a variety entertainment channel and Taranga, the entertainment channel of O-TV and Prarthana, a religious-content channel.

Retrieved 24 September 2006.

2. Kar Srimoy, Journalism in Orissa. Reference Orissa (Bhubaneswar: Enterprising Publishers, 2005), pp. 636-637.

3. Community radio is a type of radio service that caters to the interests of a certain area, broadcasting content that is popular to a local audience but which may often be overlooked by commercial or mass-media broadcasters. It has three distinct characteristics.  Firstly, it is characterised by the active participation of the community in the process of creating news, information, entertainment and culturally relevant material, with an emphasis on local issues and concerns. With training, local producers can create programmes using local voices. The community can also actively participate in the management of the station and have a say in the scheduling and content of the programmes. Secondly, it is essentially a non-profit enterprise. In these days of highly commercialised broadcasting, the ethos of community radio remains independence and a responsibility to serve the community, not the advertiser. As the station is owned by the community, it also maintains some responsibility in the running of the station. And, thirdly, community radio programming is designed by the community, to improve social conditions and the quality of its cultural life. The community itself decides what its priorities and needs are in terms of information provision.

4. radionamaskar.org

5. Retrieved on July 14, 2006. www.orissatv.com.


   Published on IndianFaculty.com: 18/10/2011

 Source: E-mail 18/10/2011

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