Media In India: Access, Practices, Concerns and Effects



A Survey-based Study by Lokniti-CSDS in partnership with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

The Lokniti programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, in partnership with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), undertook a comprehensive India-wide study of media consumption behaviour in India to understand people’s day to day media practices and their mediarelated concerns and attitudes. The study focused on both traditional (TV, newspaper, radio etc.) and new (mobile phone, internet, social media, digital etc.) media. It was conducted in 19 States (Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal) among 7,463 citizens aged 15 years and above. Unlike the many other media consumption surveys/studies nowadays that are either conducted only among city-dwellers or only among internet users, the study was based on a nationally representative and all-encompassing survey covering all segments of the society – the rural as well as the urban citizens, the rich and the poor, the young and the old, men and women, and the non-literate as well as the educated. Moreover, it was not just limited to those who use internet and smartphones but captured the experiences and perceptions of even those who do not yet have access to them.


Here are some of the key findings to have emerged from the survey-based study:

Mobile dominance: The survey highlights the growing importance of a mobile phone in the life of an average Indian. Around seven out of ten 15+ citizens (69%) in the country today own a mobile phone, and of them nearly two-thirds (43%) are smartphone owners. This means that more people in India today own a smartphone than an ordinary mobile phone which was not the case till about three years ago when a national survey by Lokniti had found more citizens to be using basic and feature phones than smartphones (See Table 1).

The survey also found that that internet usage in the country is mostly happening through the mobile phone and that nine out of ten mobile phone users have internet on their phone (See Table 2). Very few households (only one in ten) also access the internet through a reliable internet connection at home (See Table 3).

According to the survey, on average, mobile phone users in India today spend about three hours on their mobile phone daily, which is about the same as the time spent by daily TV viewers watching TV everyday. Among smartphone users specifically, the average time being spent on the smartphone daily is over four hours (See Table 4). One-third of mobile phone owners said they would feel extremely restless if their mobile phone was taken away from them for a day (See Table 5) as opposed to a quarter of daily TV watchers who said the same for TV.

Digital divide persists but less sharp: Although there is no doubt that access to mobile phones and the internet among people has increased in a major way over the last few years, a digital divide still exists, even though it is less sharp now than earlier. The usage/ownership of digital devices such as mobile phones, smartphones, and computers/laptops/tablets is comparatively still much less among the elderly, the economically poor, non-literate and rural citizens than it is among the young, economically well-off, educated and urban citizens (See Table 6). It is also far lower among women compared to men. As far as castes and communities are concerned, Scheduled Tribe citizens and households are least likely to use or own digital devices or have access to internet. The use of and access to digital technologies among Scheduled Caste citizens and households isn’t too high either. Hindu upper castes on the other hand are the most likely to use or own them. This skew is mostly due to economic class and education.

Internet usage is mostly about social media usage: The most common and popular activity on the internet is the usage of social media and messaging services. The survey found that nine out of ten active internet users use social media and messaging platforms (at least one of them), which is far greater than any other activity that internet users are engaging in on the internet (See Table 7). While search engines are being used by three-fourths of active internet users, news and current affairs website browsing is being done by around seven out of ten of them. Significantly, the usage of emails is only being done by about two-thirds of active internet users and that too quite irregularly

Facebook dominance fades, YouTube the rising star: The most used social media and messaging platforms by Indians currently are WhatsApp and YouTube (See Table 8), both of which have seen steady growth during the last three years. Facebook, which was once the most dominant social media platform has slipped to the third position according to the survey. Many of Facebook’s users seem to have shifted to using Instagram, which the survey found to be the fourth most used social media platform in India. Quite surprisingly, the usage of Twitter, the micro blogging service, continues to lag behind quite a bit. The survey not only found it to be less popular than Telegram (a messaging platform that was launched much after Twitter), but also found it to be used more infrequently by its users than frequently

Government surveillance acknowledged but not considered immoral by many: Most smartphone and internet users were found to hold the belief that the government monitors what people do on the internet or their phone, i.e., they acknowledged that it takes place (See Table 9). However this acknowledgment does not mean that they disapprove of government surveillance. This is because when the same people were asked to give their opinion about the morality/ethicality of government surveillance, a sizeable proportion of them saw nothing wrong with it (See Table 21). On the whole people were more likely to disapprove of phone conversation surveillance than social media surveillance. They did make a clear distinction between the two. While most disapproved of the former, as far as the latter is concerned, there was greater approval of it than disapproval.

Social media used a lot by internet users but least trusted: Even though most internet users are mostly engaged in using social media and messaging platforms on the internet more than any other internet service, nonetheless they do not trust the information that they receive on social media platforms very much. Very few active social media users were found to have high trust in the information or news that they receive on social media. Most have moderate to low trust. While Twitter and WhatsApp are the most highly trusted of all platforms, even with respect to them only a sixth of their users highly trust them to disseminate/carry correct news or information (See Table 10).

Around half of all social media users were found to be highly or moderately concerned about receiving fake news or information on social media or messenger apps (See Table 11), and nearly half of all social media users admitted to have been misled by fake news or information online at some point (See Table 12).

The survey also found social media companies to be far less trusted than other internet services such as search engines or government websites when it came to the issue of ensuring the secrecy and confidentiality of personal data and activities (See Table 13).

Harassment on social media: Harassment and trolling on social media is something that quite a few social media users have experienced. Around one-third of active Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter users reported being threatened, harassed or trolled by known or unknown people after sharing content on these platforms during the last one year (See Table 14). This harassment may be resulting in self-censorship or a spiral of silence on social media. That’s because the survey also found that around two in every five social media users have in the last year either stopped themselves from expressing their political opinions, or at least thought twice about doing so, because they feared being misunderstood, seen in a bad light by people they know or being harassed by strangers (See Table 15).

The survey found that not many social media users in India are posting or expressing their thoughts and opinions on issues. They are in fact far more likely to post photographs, particularly selfies, on their social media platforms than post opinions (See Table 15). On the issue of whether social media and WhatsApp are safe places to express one’s opinion on politics was found to be badly divided (See Table 17).

A guarded and perhaps illiberal outlook regarding freedom of expression on social media: Most of the survey respondents were found to carry what could be considered as conservative or illiberal opinions on the issue of free speech and expression on social media. For instance, a greater proportion of social media users expressed their opposition to than support for the proposition that “even if an idea or opinion is seen as offensive, there is nothing wrong if people express it on social media or WhatsApp” (See Table 18). They were also more against the posting of supposedly ‘offensive’ and ‘objectionable’ opinions about the government on social media and messaging platforms than in favour of it (See Table 19). However on this matter (that of posting an ‘objectionable’ opinion about the government), their opposition was relatively less strong when compared with their opposition to posting opinions of an ‘offensive’ nature on social media more generally.

Support for internet shutdowns by governments on law and order grounds was also greater than opposition to it (See Table 20). The only issue, perhaps, on which a not so conservative opinion was seen, was that of government regulation of social media content. Social media users were far more likely to be against than in favour of the idea of the government determining what can or cannot be posted on social media or Whatsapp (See Table 21).


TV still the main news source: Despite it being the age of the internet, for most Indians, the traditional medium of television continues to be the main go to source for news. In the survey, people were twice as likely to cite TV as their main source of news as they were to cite new media, i.e., internet/mobile phones/social media (See Table 22).


Within the traditional media landscape, it is television that is far more dominant as the primary news source than newspapers – nearly seven times more dominant. Moreover, most Indians seem to prefer to watch news channels (on TV or elsewhere) rather than read newspapers. While there is nothing new in this and news channels have always been more popular than newspapers, the gap between the two mediums seems to have widened further. Newspapers, however, fare better than online news websites. While half of all respondents reported reading a newspaper, two-fifths said that they visit/browse news and current affairs websites (See Table 23).


Content being consumed in local language: Much of the news and entertainment that people are consuming seems to be in their local language. While in the northern and central parts of the country, most people are accessing/consuming news and entertainment (films, TV dramas etc.) in Hindi, in other parts of the country it is the non-Hindi regional languages that mostly dominate. Having said that, there were quite a few respondents (25-35%) in the non-Hindi speaking states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Assam and Punjab who did report consuming news and entertainment mostly in Hindi and not the local language (See Table 24). Significantly, a very miniscule proportion of Indians consume news and entertainment in English and in this context the importance given to English language media, particularly English news media, by media watchers seems rather disproportionate. There also seems to be a yearning among news consumers to return to the old way of delivering news. In spite of the fact that news channels are increasingly choosing to have more for debateoriented shows than traditional style news bulletins, most news consumers in the survey preferred the latter than the former when given a choice between the two (See Table 25).

Little trust in private news channels: The findings related to people’s trust in news media present a mixed picture as consumers of news seem to be making a clear distinction between different types of news sources when it comes to trusting them. While the public broadcaster Doordarshan and newspapers (generally speaking) were found to enjoy a high amount of trust from their consumers (one-third of their consumers said they highly trust them); private news channels did not fare as well with only one in every seven of their viewers reporting high faith in the news being disseminated by them. All India Radio news and online news websites did even worse than private news channels (See Table 26).



Table 1: Big transformation in type of mobile phone owned during last 3 years 

  Smartphoneownership Ordinary phone ownership
2019 33 40
2022 43 26

Note : Figures shown here and in the other tables are percentages, unless specified otherwise.

Source for 2019 : NES 2019 (2 rounds merged). Question wordings in 2019 and 2022 were slightly different. In 2022, respondents were asked if they owned a mobile phone that only they used mostly, and if they did, then what kind was it. In 2019, respondents were simply asked about what kind of mobile phone they had and not whether they were the only ones using it.

Table 2 : Proportion of mobile phone owners having Internet on their phone

  Internet on phone
Among Mobile phone owners (overall) 89
Among Smartphone owners 99
Among Ordinary phone owners 72


Table 3 : Presence of media and communication sources in Indian homes

Television set 75
Newspaper (get it daily or often) 27
Magazine (get it periodically or often) 13
Music system or transistor 22
At least one mobile phone-owning member (includes smartphone) 84
At least one smartphone-owning member 76
Computer/laptop/tablet 19
Private internet connection at home 12


Table 4 : Time spent on mobile phones daily by mobile phone users, compared to time spent on TV by daily TV watchers

Average time (hours) spent daily
On mobile phone (all types) 2.83
On smartphone 4.22
On ordinary mobile phone 1.81
On TV (by daily TV watchers) 2.92


Table 5 : How restless would mobile phone owners feel without their phone for a day?

Extremely restless 32
Somewhat restless 24
Not much restless 16
Not at all restless 28


Table 6 : The digital divide: ownership of mobile phones/smartphones among key sociodemographics

Ordinary phone Smartphone No phone
Location type
Villages 28 37 35
Towns 27 50 23
Cities 22 59 19
Big cities 17 63 19
Age group
15-17 6 60 33
18-25 13 74 14
26-35 21 62 17
36-45 35 41 25
46-55 34 27 39
56+ 32 13 55
Women 24 32 44
Men 28 54 18
Economic class
Poor 30 19 51
Lower Class 30 32 38
Middle Class 24 55 21
Upper Class 15 80 6
Non-literate 26 5 69
Primary school 43 16 42
Middle pass 40 33 27
High school 22 64 14
College & above 9 88 3
Hindu upper 23 55 22
Hindu OBC 27 43 30
Hindu Dalit 29 36 35
Hindu Adivasi 23 32 45
Muslim 29 38 32
Other minorities 24 51 25


Table 7 : What are active internet users doing on the internet?

Active internet users who…
Use social media 91
Use search engines 75
Visit current affairs websites 70
Use email 64
Download or stream movies 62
Use Wikipedia 57
Post an opinion or share a link 53
Use meeting and chat apps 52
Write a blog 28

Note : Active internet users are those who said that they had used the internet for some activity in the two months prior to the survey. Even those who do these activities rarely have been included here

Table 8 : Usage of various social media and messaging platforms among 15+ citizens

Daily Weekly Verylittle Never/Don’t use internet
WhatsApp 34 5 4 57
YouTube 27 9 5 59
Facebook 23 8 6 63
Instagram 15 8 6 71
Telegram 10 7 5 78
TikTok (pre-ban) 8 7 4 81
Twitter 6 6 7 81
Snapchat 6 5 5 84
Koo 3 3 4 90
Clubhouse 2 3 4 91
LinkedIn 2 4 4 90
Signal 2 4 5 89
Tinder, Bumble etc. 2 4 5 89
Some other app* 4 4 5 87


Table 9 : Perception regarding government surveillance

Does the government monitor what people do on internet or their phone?
Yes, it monitors It monitors some, not all No, it doesn’t monitor Non-committal or no idea
All respondents 24 10 14 52
Mobile phone users 29 12 15 44
Smartphone users 35 14 18 33
Active internet users 34 15 17 34


Table 10 : Trust in information or news received on various social media platforms

High trust Moderate Very little None at all Non-committal
Twitter 17 33 21 12 17
WhatsApp 16 38 21 13 12
Koo 14 29 18 16 23
YouTube 14 37 22 13 14
Facebook 14 35 26 14 11
Signal 13 17 20 26 24
Instagram 11 33 27 15 14
Telegram 11 30 24 17 18
Clubhouse 11 20 20 26 23

Note : Figures for each platform are among their active users. Active user means daily or weekly user.

Table 11 : Level of concern about receiving fake news or info on internet or social media or WhatsApp

High Moderate Little None at all
All Internet users 16 25 17 42
Active internet users 21 31 20 28
Social media users 20 32 20 28

Question asked: How concerned are you about receiving or being misled by inaccurate or fake information on the internet, social media or WhatsApp etc.?

Table 12 : Social media users’ experience of fake news

Very often Few times Once or twice NNever
Been misled by fake news on internet or social media 7 18 22 53
Shared fake news/info unknowingly and realizing later that it was false 5 14 19 62


Table 13 : Trust of active internet users in various internet services for ensuring the confidentiality of their personal data and internet activities

A lot of trust Some trust Not much trust No trust at all Non-committal
Govt services on internet 20 27 16 14 23
Internet service provider 17 31 16 13 23
Search engines 16 27 18 14 25
Social media companies 10 27 21 17 25

Question asked: How much do you trust these organisations to ensure the secrecy/confidentiality of your personal data and activities on the internet – a lot, somewhat, very little or not at all?

Table 14 : Harassment/threats experienced by active users of major social media platforms

Many times Sometimes Once or twice Never
On Facebook 13 10 8 69
On WhatsApp 13 9 7 71
On Twitter 10 14 9 66
On YouTube 10 8 5 77
On Instagram 9 11 8 72

Note: Figures for each platform are among their active users, with an active user being one that uses the platform on a daily/weekly basis.

Question asked : In the last one year or so, how many times did it happen to you that after writing or sharing something on these social media you were threatened or harassed/troubled by a known or unknown person – many times, sometimes, once or twice or never?

Table 15 : Hesitation/fear in expressing political views in the last one year on internet/social media

Very often Few times Once or twice Never Don’t express political views on internet in the first place No response
All Internet users 6 13 12 39 14 16
Active internet users 7 16 14 36 16 11
Social media users 7 17 15 35 14 11

Question asked: In the last one year, how often have you thought twice before expressing an opinion on political and public matters on social media or WhatsApp groups or stopped yourself from doing so, because you feared being misunderstood or seen in a bad light by people you know or feared being harassed by strangers?

Table 15 : What are social media users using social media for?

Daily Many times a week Once or twice a week Very little Never
Post one's opinion on an issue or share a link on it 9 12 12 24 43
Post photos of oneself/selfies 11 19 19 25 26
Post other photos 10 16 16 28 30
Post vlogs, audios, podcasts 5 9 10 22 55


Table 17 : Opinion on whether social media and WhatsApp are safe places to express political opinions

Social media or WhatsApp are safe places to express one's opinion on politics and public matters. Do you agree or disagree?
Fully agree Some what agree Fully disagree No response
All respondents 10 19 16 15 40
Social media users 15 29 22 18 16


Table 18 : Opinion on freedom to express ideas on social media, even if they are offensive

Even if an idea is offensive, there is nothing wrong if people express it on social media or WhatsApp. Do you agree or disagree?
Fully agree Some what agree Fully disagree No response
All respondents 9 15 14 26 36
Social media users 12 23 19 32 14


Table 19 : Opinion on freedom to express opinion against the government on social media, however offensive or objectionable it may be

People should be free to say whatever they feel about their government on social media or WhatsApp, however objectionable or offensive their opinion may be. Do you agree or disagree?
Fully agree Some what agree Fully disagree No response
All respondents 11 16 16 20 37
Social media users 16 24 21 24 15


Table 20 : Opinion on internet shutdown by government on law and order grounds

If any government shuts down internet services in an area for a certain period of time on law and order grounds, then in your opinion, will it be right or wrong in doing so?
Fully right Some what right Right, if on grounds of security Some what wrong Fully wrong No opinion
All respondents 15 12 9 10 16 38
Active internet users 20 17 10 14 22 16


Table 21 : Opinion on government regulating social media content

If any government determines what can or cannot be posted on social media or WhatsApp, then in your opinion, will it be right or wrong in doing so?
Fully right Some what right Right, if on grounds of security Some what wrong Fully wrong No opinion
All respondents 9 11 8 12 21 39
Active internet users 11 16 11 17 29 16


Table 22 : Television still the most dominant news source

Television 42
Newspaper 6
Radio 1
New media (internet/social media/mobile phone) 22
People (family, friends, neighbours, others) 18
Difficult to say/not interested 11

Question asked: Through which medium do you mostly get/obtain news?


Table 23: Proportion of 15+ Indians accessing news through various means

Watch news channels 71
Read newspapers 48
Visit news websites 37


Table 24: Language in which news and entertainment is being consumed the most

Hindi English Others
Language in which news channels are being watched the most 51 1 48
Language in which newspapers are being read the most 47 3 50
Language in which films are being watched the most 54 1 45
Language in which serials/dramas are being watched the most 53 < 1 47


Table 25 : News bulletin format preferred more than debate format by news consumers

Prefer watching news bulletins more than debates 49
Prefer watching debate shows more than news bulletins 12
Both are fine/non-committal 39

Question asked to those who watch news channels: Between these two types of programmes on any news channel, which do you generally prefer watching more – a news bulletin that shows news and reports one after another or a programme where particular news is discussed and debated by experts or politicians?

Table 26 : Trust in various news media among consumers of those media

Strongly trust Some what trust Don't trust much Don't trust at all Non - committal
DD's news channels 34 30 16 8 12
Newspapers 31 29 16 9 15
Private news channels 13 28 20 13 26
AIR news 15 20 15 15 35
Online news websites 11 23 19 15 32

Question asked : How much do you trust the news disseminated by these news media – quite a lot, somewhat, very little or not at all?

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