New World, New Radio
More than ever, we need this universal humanist medium, vector of freedom. Without Radio, the right to information and freedom of expression and with them fundamental freedoms would be weakened, as would cultural diversity since community radio stations are the voices of the voiceless.Audrey Azoulay
Director-General of UNESCO
“Good Morning Mumbai”, a wake-up call by a radio jockey in a famous movie. Many of us grew up listening to radio broadcasts, be it news, music, or cricket commentary. Even today, getting recognised by All India Radio as graded artists enhance the CV of musicians. World Radio Day is being observed on 13 February, proclaimed in 2011 by UNESCO and adopted by the UN 2012. Radio, more than 110-year-old the observation in its 10th year.
Radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and remains the most widely consumed medium globally. Its unique ability to reach out to the broadest audience allows to experience society’s diversity and accessible anywhere and anytime. Despite being more than 100 years old, the Radio remains one of the most popular ways to exchange information, save lives during natural or human-made disasters. Radio reaches everyone and has been with us longer than any other kind of broadcast media. More people have access to Radio than anything else, and more importantly, it is free. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Radio made it possible to ensure continuity of learning, fight against misinformation, and promote barrier gestures. Journalists find in it a platform to report facts and tell their stories.
It is reported that the idea of the existence of radio waves and the feasibility of radio transmission is by Scottish Scientist James Clark Maxwell in the 1860s. Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor, is credited for radio invention, sent, and received the first radio signal in Italy in 1895. At one time radio was the only broadcast means for news and entertainment. “War of the Worlds” a broadcast by CBS in 1938, what was intended to be a Halloween prank, led many to believe Martians invasion of Earth. Chaos erupted in the streets of many cities. Such has been its influence. Some new initiatives like Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) Consortium, which aims to be “one-to-many” platform, digital Radio, can deliver audio and text over vast areas and, to all the schools and students in remote villages.
Radio is everywhere, with ~75% of households in developing countries having access to a radio. There are about 44,000 radio stations worldwide. AM/FM radio counts for 86% of the total time adults aged 25-54 spend listening. It has become more interactive over time, with more radio call‐in shows to encourage participation. With the spread of mobile phones, a convergence with radio listening has emerged.
In India broadcasting began in June 1923 with programs by the Bombay Presidency Radio Club. External service started on 1 October 1939. In 1947 when India became independent, the AIR network had only six stations (Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Lucknow, and Tiruchirappalli). All India Radio (AIR), established in 1936, known since 1957 as Akashvani is the national public radio broadcaster of India. All India Radio is the largest radio network globally and one of the largest broadcasting organisations in the world in terms of the number of languages broadcast and the spectrum of socio-economic and cultural diversity it serves. AIR’s service is delivered through 420 stations located across the country, reaching nearly 92% of the country’s area and ~99% of the total population. AIR originates programming in 23 languages and 179 dialects. The use of the word ‘Akashvani’ in the context of Radio was credited to Prof M. V. Gopalaswami from Mysore who in 1936 set up India’s first private radio station. It was later adopted as All India Radio’s on-air name in 1957. Given its literal meaning in Sanskrit (“Voice from the Sky”), it is more than an appropriate name for the broadcaster. The Vividh Bharati Service was launched in 1957. With the emergence of TV and when the popularity of Radio waning out, FM radio came and gave a rebirth to radio broadcasting. The first FM service began in 1977 in Chennai and has seen extensive expansion during the 1990s. Community Radios, local radio stations gave a new dimension to radio broadcasting.
Radio Ceylon’s popularity and its reach on the weekly show “Binaka Geeth Mala” and the unforgettable voice of Ameen Sayani still lingers in the minds of many. Many of us grew up listening to cricket commentary on Radio. Reaching out to people is of paramount importance, and Radio plays an important role. The emergence of the internet provides a new impetus to Radio with many options for the communicators and listeners. With mobile on almost everyone’s hand and the internet invasion, it gives new dimensions to the Radio broadcast. It is relatively easy to set up your own “Internet Radio”, which goes beyond the commercial connotation.
Humans always aspired to find avenues to communicate, and Radio is doing yeomen service to humankind. As the world changes, so do Radio. It evolved, adapted, and innovated and continue to connect. Let us celebrate the power of Radio to reflect and promote diversity in all its forms.