by - Smt. Sushma Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting
Radio broadcasting began in India in the early 1920’s. The Radio Club of Bombay broadcast the first programme in 1923. This was followed by the setting up of a Broadcasting Service that began broadcasting on 23rd July 1927 on an experimental basis in Bombay and Calcutta, under an agreement between the then Government of India and a private company called the Indian Broadcasting Company Ltd. When this company went into liquidation in 1930, Indian State Broadcasting Service under the Department of “Controller of Broadcasts” was constituted. The Indian State Broadcasting Service was renamed as All India Radio in June, 1936. All India Radio also came to be known as Akashvani in 1956.
When India attained Independence in 1947, AIR had a network of six stations and 18 transmitters. The coverage was 2.5 % of the area and just 11% of the population. AIR today has 231 radio stations and 373 transmitters and its coverage extends to 91.79 % by area and 99.14 % by population. Operating in a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic country like India, AIR broadcasts in 24 languages and 146 dialects, in its home service. In External Services, it covers 27 languages including 16 foreign and 11 Indian languages. AIR operates its broadcasting services on Medium Wave, Short Wave and FM. The FM Service uses a larger bandwidth to provide a programme service of high fidelity and lower noise distortion. AIR started the FM network with its channels viz. AIR FM Gold, and AIR FM Rainbow,
In its programming and other activities AIR is guided by its motto “Bahujana Hitaya; Bahujana Sukhaya” i.e to promote the happiness and welfare of the masses through information, education and entertainment. To realize its objectives, AIR has evolved a three-tier system of broadcasting – national, regional and local. It caters to the mass communication needs of the people through its various stations spread across the country. They provide music, spoken word, news and other programmes. Local stations meet the area specific needs of the listener.
At present All India Radio operates its services through:
Commercial Broadcasting Service (Vividh Bharati)
FM Channels (Rainbow and Gold)
Local Radio Station (LRS)
External Services broadcast
Other niche channels: Amrutha Varshini
Emergency Warning Broadcasting System (EWBS)
Broadcasting is a very effective medium for relaying life-saving information on the preventive measures to be taken and also about the rescue measures envisaged after the disaster has happened. Japan has developed a technique in which a sleeping radio set can be switched on automatically in case of emergency. All India radio has already tested the technique in MW/FM transmitters. Further work is proposed in coordination with National Disaster Management Authority.
With the passage of time operating broadcasting services on Medium Wave and Short Wave, AIR has had stepped into the larger bandwidth to provide a programme service of high fidelity and lower noise distortion and thus came the era of FM.
Expansion Of FM Through Private Participation
With the advent of liberalization in India. Government of India brought out a policy to expand FM Radio Network through participation of private agencies in 1999 and again a revised policy in 2005. Accordingly, 21 channels were operationalised in various states in Phase- I and 236 channels have been operationalised in Phase- II, out of the 266 channels for which licenses have been given. Government has received a sum of Rs.35.53 crores (approx.) license fee from these channels during 2007- 08.
Community Radio Setup in India
After the success of the FM Radio Broadcasting, the Government of India approved a policy for the grant of licenses for setting up of Community Radio Stations to well established educational institutions including IITs/IIMs, Krishi Vikas Kendras, State Agricultural universities, Indian Council of Agricultural Research institutions and ‘Non-profit’ organizations like civil society and voluntary organizations.
The basic objective of the Community Radio broadcasting is to serve the cause of the community in the service area by involving members of the community in the broadcast of their programmes. These small Radio Stations set up by educational institutions, civil society organizations etc., would cater to the needs of the population in a range of 10-15 km and would have programmes of immediate relevance to the community. The emphasis should be on developmental, agricultural, health, educational, environmental, social welfare, community development and cultural programmes. The programming should reflect the special interests and needs of the local community and at least 50% of content shall be generated with the participation of the local community, for which the station has been set up.
Challenge to AIR - Technological Advancements
With the advent of private channels in FM Radio, the Public Broadcaster’s monopoly has been threatened. To compete with the upcoming channels the AIR also has been adopting new technologies and techniques to continue to reach out to the masses. AIR has added another feather to its cap by making available the ‘SMS News on Mobile Phone’ service. Anyone can now get news through SMS by sending a SMS – NEWS at 5676744.
The ‘News on Phone’ service is another landmark being presented by AIR. Anyone can get the latest news by simply making a phone call on the designated numbers and listen to national / international news or regional news in English, Hindi and local language. The service is now operational in 14 cities across the country including Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Patna, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Thiruvananthpuram.
Utilizing the technological advancements, AIR has also launched its website for the news lovers. AIR News can be accessed through NSD website www.newsonair.com.
Introduction of Internet broadcasting by AIR has enabled its listeners in parts of the world like USA, Canada, West and South Africa to avail of AIR’s Services on Internet 24 hrs. 21 AIR channels are also available through Doordarshan DTH services.
The External Services Division has started digital transmission from its new set up installed in the New Broadcasting House. All modern gadgets and equipments are being used to attract as many listeners as possible.
Computer Hard Disc based recording, editing and playback system has already been provided at 76 AIR stations and is under implementation at 61 stations. Provision of Hard Disc Based System at 48 major stations of All India Radio is also currently in progress.
Computerization of AIR stations and offices is in progress to facilitate online exchange of information and improvement of efficiency.
Permanent Studios with digital equipment & Compterised hard disc based work stations for recording, dubbing, editing & playback facilities etc. are being provided at AIR Leh, Dehradun, Mysore, Jaipur, & Tawang.
AIR has started “AIR RESOURCES” as one of its commercial arm to provide consultancy and turnkey solutions in the field of broadcasting. Its present activities include the following:
It is providing turnkey solutions to IGNOU in setting up FM Transmitters for their Gyan-Vani stations at 40 places in the country. Infrastructure like land, building and tower has also been leased out to Gyan-Vani stations. 26 Gyan-Vani stations are already operational. Operation & maintenance of all the Gyan-Vani stations commissioned so far has also been undertaken.
All India Radio, with its reach to nearly the whole of population, continues in its effort to spread awareness among the people about the initiatives taken by the Government to improve the standard of living of the common man. From its post Independence stature as channel associated only with classical music it has graduated into a educational-cum-entertainment channel and is once again looking forward to gain the ground it had lost to the private operators in the recent past.