Who’s Your Favourite RJ: The Need For The Revival Of Radio Culture In India

Posted on September 23, 2012 in Media

By R Anupam Pillai:

One fine day, while cleaning up my closet, I was amused to see my portable radio trans-receiver neatly packed in a very glossy cover and stowed away in one little corner. This transported me into a perfect state of nostalgia. I still remember how I pleaded for the same and finally got it as a gift from my parents on my tenth birthday It was a black, sleek and sturdy, Kchibo Pocket radio with a ten band radio and built-in equalizer. I was however, shocked to find a change in the scenario that compelled people to give up their habit of using radio trans-receivers and instead getting glued to the television or mobiles for listening to the FM. But one thing that was surprising was that there are still some parts of the country were people do have this culture to devote time for listening to the radio. What could be the reasons for this sudden shift? Is technological advancement responsible for the death of the golden era of radio in India?

In India, radio culture featured in the early 20th century, where there was no other means of communication apart from the radio broadcast for common people. Firstly, the radio broadcasting was pioneered in India by the ‘Madras Presidency Club Radio‘ in 1924. The ‘All India Radio‘ (AIR) is the radio broadcasting station, set up in 1936, became a household name in India for its radio broadcast services. In the early days, the AIR had to struggle a lot to establish itself as a radio station as people were not accustomed to using radio trans-receivers, as they were costly and inconvenient. Later, it became a practice in every household to tune into the station and listen to the mesmerising voices of the radio jockeys. The cacophony in the city streets would never deter one from being glued to the melodious voices of Talat Mehmood and tuning into the morning musical program named Binaca Geetmala. Then there were broadcasts like Hawa Mahal, where the host used to read out novels in a narrative style that were evocative and made one nostalgic. That was the golden era of radio in India, where people used to crave for and worship the radio. Radio sets were often placed in tea-shops, where people used to engage in endless gossip and discussions over several cups of tea. This was the time when radio was much more than a source of entertainment, it was a means of socialization among the common folk.

The second era of radio broadcast started with that of FM radio stations that cropped up in various cities in late 1990’s. This was way more promising as it catered to the needs of the changing times, as with increasing commercialization in the market the promotional advertisements via radio stations were favoured. So, FM radio stations were best for the same. Moreover, there has always been this psychological bent of people that they cannot switch from one alternative to another until they find the very purpose to do so.

Similarly, people still liked to listen to the radio but the culture of socializing during the act was diluted. The appropriate reason for the same is that of personalized services with technological advancement that brought compact radio trans-receivers, so now people were no longer used to bulky radio sets. Hence, the portable radio sets were in and bulkier ones were out. This was the end of the golden era of radio broadcasts in India. Nowadays radios are substituted with the FM radio functions in people’s mobile phones. But, it lacks the very essence that the traditional radio used to have.

With the forthcoming generations, people will miss on their part to inculcate the habit of listening to the radio, which are undoubtedly, the best sources of knowledge and education. I think that, the day is not too far, when radio sets will become obsolete and people will simply read about them and the radio culture in books and blogs.