World Radio Day Music

Behind the high walls of Visakhapatnam’s All India Radio

Girls listening to radio   | Photo Credit: PTI

For 47-year-old P Kanaka, her tiny transistor is a constant companion. “With the radio beside me, I do not need a clock. When the first news bulletin comes on air, at 6.40 am, I know, it is time for me to start preparing the breakfast. The afternoon bulletin of 1.20 pm is my cue to sit down for lunch,” she laughs.

Kanaka has been listening to All India Radio since her childhood. “My mother was a tailor and she loved working as she listened to the songs on the radio. She timed her chores around the programmes aired and that is a habit I picked up from her. Though several other radio stations have come up in the past decade, I stuck to AIR because I like their old-school ways and it is much more than just songs, they have news, educational programmes and interviews. It keeps me updated,” she adds.

All India Radio, Visakhapatnam. Photo: K.R. Deepak

All India Radio, Visakhapatnam. Photo: K.R. Deepak   | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

Just a kilometre away from Kanaka’s house is All India Radio where assistant director of the program wing, K Satyanarayana Murthy sits. “All the programmes are planned at least three months ahead of the broadcast. This ensures we have ample time to produce high-quality content. Each programme is thoroughly researched and edited,” he says. There are programmes for women about healthcare, for students on coping with exam stress, and tips on preparing to write them, short stories, plays and music...“We recently wrapped up an 18-episode show called Gahe Tava Jaya-Gatha that traced the history of India from the first war of independence right up to 1947. It was a huge hit among the listeners as we received at least 15 to 20 letters every week appreciating the show,” he adds. Satyanarayan recalls that a show titled Sound track was one of the most popular ones in his career. Every Sunday, the sound track of a film was condensed into one hour and played on the radio. “It was hugely popular as most of the movies were classics of that era. The show was stopped almost a decade ago after running for over 20 years,” he says.

Did you know?
  • AIR is one of the largest broadcasting organisations in the world. Its motto is 'Bahujan Hitaya: Bahujan Sukhaya'
  • AIR’s home service comprises 479 stations
  • It reaches nearly 92% of the country’s area and 99.19% of the total population
  • AIR creates programmes in 23 languages and over 140 dialects
  • Programmes of the External Services Division are broadcast in 11 Indian and 16 foreign languages reaching out to more than 100 countries
  • Over 44 Regional News Units originate 469 daily news bulletins in 75 languages
  • Andhra Pradesh has nine full-fledged stations and five relay stations covering 99% of the area and reaching to 99.5% of the population.

One of the popular shows, currently, is the Telugu version of the Prime Minister’s Mann Ki Baat that is broadcast right after the original one in Hindi.

Flashback

The radio station in Visakhapatnam was set up on August 4, 1963, at Kurmannapalem, over 20 kilometres away from the city. The station started with a 10-kilowatt transmitter. However, this was upgraded to a 100kW transmitter in May 1976 as several surrounding districts of Srikakulam and East Godavari remained out of coverage with the earlier transmitter.

“In earlier days, the anchor would have to carry magnetic tapes to the studio for their respective programmes. Hence the songs to be played were largely pre-determined. These days the anchors have two or three computers, they can immediately change the song list or talk about new topics during the show,” says Ramakrishna Prasad of the engineering wing.

AIR shifted its base from Kurmannapalem to Siripuram in 1986. With connectivity up to 250 to 300 kilometres, the radio signals reached the fishermen far out in the sea and also the tribal people in Araku and Paderu. “We have employees who travel to the remote tribal areas and get bytes from there about their problems and demands. At AIR, we broadcast about schemes and initiatives that have been launched for them. Frequent weather updates are given on the radio to keep fishermen updated on the weather conditions,” says Satyanarayan.

For the people
  • Several stalwarts of the music industry have performed for AIR Visakhapatnam
  • Violinist MS Gopalakrishnan
  • Carnatic vocalist T V Sankaranarayanan
  • Playback singer Hariharan
  • Bombay sisters- C Saroja and C Lalitha
  • Author Mulk Raj Anand
  • Percussionist Karaikudi Mani
  • Carnatic vocalist S Ramanathan
  • Carnatic vocalist M Balamuralikrishna
  • Pandavani exponent Teejan Bai

Radio in times of calamity

When the cyclonic storm HudHud devasted the city, the modern modes of communication broke down. It was only through hourly updates on the radio that the government was able to communicate with the masses. “We were broadcasting round the clock. We educated the people about the rehabilitation initiatives, and roped in concerned officials to talk about schemes and activities for those affected,” says Satyanarayan. The radio station stood tall and worked and broadcast 24 hours at a stretch during Cyclone Fani and Cyclone Titli.

“In 2004 when Tsunami hit the east coast, I was working as a correspondent for AIR. With communication lines down, radio was the only means of reaching out to the public. Since there was no Internet in those days, I would come back to the station every two hours and update the news. We also broadcast interviews with fishermen who were devastated by the calamity,” says M S Mahesh, assistant director of News wing.


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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 9:08:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/behind-the-high-walls-of-visakhapatnams-all-india-radioalways-in-touch/article30760558.ece

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