sulabh swatchh bharat

Thursday, 23-May-2019


PM Narendra Modi has taken it to a new orbit with Mann ki Baat reaching most of the Indian households

 ashima / new delhi

The film was Rang De Basanti depicting a bunch of young men fighting the corrupt system. After having lost all hopes, they take up the radio to convey their side of the story to the masses. The youth who were unable to reach out to people, had faith in All India Radio and within seconds, their voice reached every nook and corner of the country. During this programme, they responded to people’s calls detailing their purpose. The entire episode resulted in the administration sending security forces to gun them down. But, their call had already reached the public which gradually gathers at All India Radio. People across the country then rise against the establishment.
The film might have taught the youth to be more responsible but another learning was that radio is still not only a powerful medium but also a hope for development. It is changing its avatars with changing milieu. Advent of new media doesn’t mean that radio has lost its relevance.
Radio is the medium with maximum reach on the ground. Shahrukh Khan played the role of a reporter with All India Radio in iconic film ‘Dil Se’. Who can forget ‘RJ’ Vidya Balan’s “Good Morning Mumbai“ in Lage Raho Munna Bhai, the second instalment of Munna Bhai series.
Preity Zinta too has played radio jockey in one of her prominent films.

Radio is one medium which doesn’t warrant our full attention. Nor we do we have to be stationary to use it. We only needs to use our olfactory senses. You can drive while listening to radio, a washer-man might be listening the same programme while ironing clothes and might be a tailor while stitching. Most common sight in a city bus or metro train is young boys and girls with earphones firmly plugged into their ears, listening to FM radio.
Radio has seen an era. There might have been several ups and downs but radio is still a hope for the country. That is the reason our techno-savvy Prime Minister Narendra Modi while stressing on the need to usher in the latest technological innovations like Smart City, uses radio to carry his “Mann ki Baat” to each and every Indian. This could be achieved only with radio which is the most accessible mode of mass communication. The programme is so popular that most TV news channels as well as news websites telecast or webcast the radio transmission live. The indication is clear – radio hasn’t outlived its utility. It’s rather gaining more popularity and there are myriad possibilities waiting to be explored.  

Radio was under government control for a long time after independence. It was being used by the government to disseminate propaganda and information like news, agriculture, developmental issues and later with the launch of Vividh Bharti – to songs on demand as well. With passage of time, the medium underwent lot of changes and most of them were for its good. Its increasing popularity is proof enough that its getting better with each passing day. All India Radio is truly living up to its tagline – Bahujan Hitai, Bahujan Sukhai (Welfare of all, happiness to all).

Radio has kept pace with developments in the society. Radio too has adapted to the development seen in the country by taking up new techniques and programmes. While its initial role was very limited but it started experiencing several experiments. The Government auctioned FM stations in the year 2000.  First private FM station Radio City started functioning in Bangalore on July 3, 2001. This posed a major challenge to the AIR, which was a monolith so far. AIR too modulated itself to FM frequency while maintaining a balance in its existing channels and programmes. The FM brought in a revolution through its entertainment packages.

BBC, Voice of Russia, etc are transmitted on Short Wave (SW) which covers a major chunk of area. It often doesn’t have sound clarity and transmission is wavering. In contrast, Frequency Modulation (FM) technique has crystal clear sound quality but in a limited area – mostly within 70 kms radius. “FM is meant to cover a locality only and not the country or continent. Why would somebody in Kerala be interested to listen to issues in Punjab”, says Harpreet, programming head of Harman Radio, Australia.
FM allows one to keep updated about his surroundings, eg traffic updates, weather updates, cultural events as well as crime incidents taking place in our neighbourhood. The speed with which it conveys information also contributes to its immense popularity. That explains why it is more popular than any other medium in cities especially metros.

Radio is the most accessible medium with maximum reach. But, community radio has an added function – it carries a responsibility as well. It is fully dedicated to development. Its range normally is only 10-15 kms. Its license is given by the government usually to non government organisations (NGOs). RJ Surendra is somebody who has spent a long time in community radio. Sharing his experiences with us he says, “While working in Mewat, I used to handle a programme ‘Gaon Gaon ki Baat’ in which we used to discuss problems of villages. Since I used to speak local dialect, lot of people used to get attracted to it. So much so that once a person turned at our office with 2.5 Kgs of kalakand (milk-cake) because he felt very attached to the programme and wanted to show his gratitude”. Listeners of community radio are happy also because no other media lends a platform to them. Surendra says, this is the uniqueness of the community radio. It’s almost like a village mouthpiece. People can share their joys sorrows and problems with each other and their neighbours.
There are many examples of Community Radio’s contribution to rural development – of how their employees work tirelessly to ensure development of the catchment area and also resolution of their problems. They have been undertaking crucial tasks like ensuring contribution of village panchayats, presenting content in lucid and easy to understand language for the literates or less literates, inclusion of such people in national mainstream and all activities besides making them aware of various malpractices.

Besides FM and Community Radio, another genre which has revolutionised the radio waves is web radio. Its a genre in which radio is linked to internet to enhance it coverage area. Basic reason for introduction of this technique in India is to keep Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in the loop. Those living abroad can keep themselves abreast with the happenings surrounding their native places through web radio. “There are many web radio stations working in India with a view to keep the NRIs informed. These include Radio Haji, Harman Radio Australia”, says Harpreet.

It is indeed a misconception that mobile having entire gamut of FM channels, would soon replace radio. It’s also incorrect that radio is technologically regressive. What is indeed true is the fact that people’s needs have changed in changing times. Radio too is changing forms with technological changes. Web radio has become more accessible with launch of android apps. FM radio stations are becoming easily available on mobile phones and laptops.

Although latest modes of communication including television, cable, satellite TV and internet are reaching even remotest parts of the India, radio’s acceptability has not dented a bit especially in rural area. There is a vast group of people in remote areas including daily wagers who depend only on radio for information and entertainment. You can easily spot somebody on a stair whitewashing buildings while listening to radio. Whether its a farmer working in fields or villagers bothering about impact of weather on their crops, all lean on humble radio to fulfil their daily needs.

Radio has seen many phases in its journey so far and has evolved many dimensions. It provides several career options to the youth, ensures people’s participation in the development and at the same time making entertainment more creative. But, we should always strive to create more options and consistently improve  the medium. There have been several instances when people opened new vistas and avenues through radio. But a vast majority of people of all age groups – from youth to the aged – have a sense that radio was there yesterday, is still relevant and will continue to grow tomorrow as well.