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Window Seat: Radio- The first real medium of mass communication

7/02/2021 at 6:30 AM

February 13 is observed as World Radio Day. Proclaimed in 2011 by the Member States of UNESCO, it was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012. The theme of World Radio Day 2021 is ‘Radio and Diversity’.

Radio is considered as the first real medium of mass communication.  Easy to operate, relatively inexpensive to produce content and disseminate- radio remains the most widely consumed medium. Operating for over a century now it has emerged as a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse. This unique ability to reach out the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard.

During the yearlong pandemic it has been marked that there has been an increase in screen fatigue. People, especially the millenials are gravitating towards audio instead of video. In this situation all audio streaming media have a bright future. Radio has an edge as it can provide need-based curated content at hyper- local level in its language or dialect.

Radio waves were first identified and studied by German physicist Heinrich Hertz in 1886. The first practical radio transmitters and receivers were developed around 1895–1896 by Italian Guglielmo Marconi, (many believe that Jagdish Chandra Bose also developed radio at around the same time, so did several others, but Marconi got the patent first) and radio began to be used commercially around 1900. 

Radio broadcasting in India began as a private venture in June 1923 by the Bombay Residency Radio Club even as other radio clubs were established in Calcutta and Madras (now Chennai) and aired songs and talks for 2-3 hours a day.

According to an agreement on 23 July 1927, the private Indian Broadcasting Company Ltd (IBC) was authorized to operate two radio stations: the Bombay station which began on 23 July 1927(therefore this day is observed as National Broadcasting Day), and the Calcutta station which followed on 26 August 1927. The company went into liquidation on 1 March 1930. The government took over the broadcasting facilities and began the Indian State Broadcasting Service (ISBS) on 1 April 1930 on an experimental basis for two years, and permanently in May 1932 it then went on to become All India Radio (AIR) on 8 June 1936. When India attained independence, there were six radio stations within Indian Territory, at Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Tiruchirapalli and Lucknow. Vividh Bharti was started as entertainment focused arm of AIR to earn more revenue on 3 October 1957. At present AIR’s home service comprises 420 stations located across the country, reaching nearly 92% of the country’s area and 99.19% of the total population.

FM broadcasting began in India on 23 July 1977 in Madras. It heralded the era of radio broadcasting for local area. Demassification of radio began.

Private participation wasn’t allowed until 1993 when the government experimented with a daily, two-hour slot on the FM channels in Delhi and Mumbai. In 2001 the first phase of private sector participation (FM Phase I) began. Radio City Bangalore, which started on July 3, 2001, became India’s first private FM radio station. By end 2020, there were about 400 private FM radio stations in India.

On 1 February 2004, Anna FM was launched as India’s first campus “community” radio station by Madras based Anna University.

By end 2020, there are over 260 CRS in India serving farmer, tribal, coastal communities, ethnic minorities and special interest groups.

The radio industry, though small (little over 5 per cent of the broadcasting sector in India) is the second fastest growing sector after internet in India.  While Digital is growing exponentially, private FM radio in India is growing at a formidable 14.5%, and that is primarily because of FM expansion in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, although the ad-pie continues to be only 4%.

It has yet not harvested the full potential of digital technology- the way television has. India has successfully implemented digital migration for television. Radio industry, by and large is still in analogue mode. It needs a technology scale up. However, it can and should harvest the advantages of digital technology in creating and disseminating content. For example radio must brace itself to compete with Amazon Alexa or Google Home on one hand and music streaming services like Sportify on the other.  

Budget cartoons and jokes

Every union budget is followed by cartoons and jokes targeting certain areas or aspects of it. This year it was a flood. Even as the Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman started her Budget 2021 speech in parliament, social media was flooded with jokes and memes. Next day several cartoons appeared in newspapers across the country.

This year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Budget was paperless. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was seen carrying a tablet in a red sleeve this morning, with reports stating that the device is a “Made in India” product. The tablet was also the butt of many jokes and memes.

Cartoonists across the country showed the sorry state of the middle class, who were taxed the most. Some cartoonists brought in farmer protest into the narrative. Allusions to the pandemic and Corona virus occupied a major part of the cartoons on the budget.

Cartoon by Kerala based cartoonist Jayaraj Vellur 

Tailpiece: Times of Corona

Wife and husband were sitting in a restaurant. 

A young, attractive waitress gets flirty with the husband. He looks boastfully at his wife.

She smirks and says, “Don’t get carried away. She is obviously down with Covid.”

Husband is taken aback and said, “How do you know that?”

Wife said,”Because she has no taste!”

Journalist turned media academician Mrinal Chatterjee lives in Dhenkanal, Odisha. Odia translation of an anthology of essays titled Mahatma Gandhi: Journalist and Editor, originally published in English is releasing by mid-January 2021.


This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with the www.prameyanews.com

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