Broadcasts reduced due to falling revenues, say officials
It is the season of Carnatic music in the city, but not on All India Radio (AIR).
For three weeks now, AIR has reduced its broadcasts of Carnatic music programmes, baffling and irking music buffs. When FM Gold ran dry of classical music last month, regular listeners lodged complaints.
Officials at AIR in turn forwarded the ‘negative feedback’ to higher officials in Delhi. Though AIR officials empathise with the listeners, they say lack of revenue is the reason behind the suspension of the programmes.
Up until early November, Carnatic music programmes were broadcast at regular intervals all day on several of AIR’s bandwidths. Programmes aired on FM Gold from 7 a.m. were an eclectic mix comprising recorded performances, a slot for new artists and performances by stalwarts. During the music season, AIR usually broadcast recorded performances from the Music Academy. On the medium wave, it offered a slot for learning classical music besides recorded or live concerts.
“I have been tuning in to the programmes since 1950. The programmes helped develop my knowledge of Carnatic music,” said 75-year-old P.K. Subramanian of Nanganallur. “I haven’t been able to tune into to Madras ‘A’ station for the past six months. FM Gold, between 1.10 p.m. and 2 p.m., would broadcast eminent musicians like M.S. Subbulakshmi, D.K. Pattammal, Semmangudi and Ariyakudi,” Mr. Subramanian said. “I go to the digital library in Music Academy once a week, but I do miss the radio programmes,” he added.
According to AIR officials, the programmes were suspended from November 12. “There are changes in the pattern of programmes. The aim is to make FM Gold generate revenue, just as it does in Delhi,” an official said. According to him, FM Gold in Delhi includes talk shows, which are very popular among listeners and bring in revenue.
Senior artistes, however, were aware of the developments in AIR. Vocalist Vijay Siva said, “We knew this was going to happen. AIR started shutting its doors to us seven or eight years ago. They have reduced the number of contracts offered to musicians,” he said.
In an effort to ensure that the slots were not cut, he along with vocalists Neyveli Santhanagopalan and P.S. Narayanaswami approached the then station director B.R. Kumar.
“But he informed us that the situation was only going to worsen over the years as listener-ship is limited. Classical music receives the second lowest listener-ship, the lowest being programmes on cattle and farming,” Mr. Vijay said.
The good news is, FM Gold has retained two slots, including the 5 p.m. band, and the broadcast of recorded programmes from the Music Academy during the music season. The programmes on medium wave too, are being relayed, the AIR official said.
Also, Isai saral, aweekly90-minute concert held every Friday continues to be organised at the AIR’s office on Kamarajar Salai.