One wave of a time

With the passage of time, radio which once suffered at the hands of television, is witnessing a resurgence.

Published - February 19, 2015 06:43 pm IST

Listening to radio. Photo: H. Vibhu

Listening to radio. Photo: H. Vibhu

Technology of the past can regain the lost ground. Media vehicle of the past can reoccupy its space in the communication dynamics, with the passage of time. The story goes for the good old radio!

Radio was always considered as common man’s medium. It was the medium which catered to the needs of communication and entertainment for nearly five decades. It was the medium which ruled the media space along with print medium. Utilized, explored, exploited and used by most of the political leaders of post-Independence era, this medium filled the void of communication created due to illiteracy. This medium could reach the farthest and remotest part of the country and even could find space in the life of an illiterate common man.

Radio was extensively used by the leaders of 1950s to 1980s. May it be “Tryst with Destiny” speech by first Prime Minister of India or the “announcement of Emergency” by the then PM, radio was an important medium of dissemination not only for the Government but for the private sector as well. It was the medium which connected the masses with the leaders.

The credibility and authenticity of radio and its news, made it one of the most favourite platforms of consumption of information. News interspersed with entertainment was the unique format, adopted and popularised by this medium, which helped it to reach even the kitchens of Indian family. Indian women became ardent consumers of this medium, thanks to its unique melodies. The labourers on the field too couldn’t keep themselves away from the medium due to its useful content for agriculture.

Driving on government’s shoulders, with the availability of technology in the form of short and medium waves, the network of All India Radio, then the only radio platform available, could reach the farthest corner, making its reach till 99.5 per centof the population and 92 per cent of the total geographic area of the country.

The rise of radio from 1950 to 1980 had to see its fall with the advent of electronic media.

The medium which was once most sought after, lost its ground with the popularity of television.

Riding on strong visual opportunities, it was the television which could take lead in 1990sand early 21st Century and literally ruled the media landscape along with ever rising print media thanks to the rising literacy levels in India. The advent of FM channels changed the perception of radio, which now donned an entertainment avatar, distinct from infotainment earlier. The FM stations and their popularity as the medium of entertainment has helped in radio’s resurgence. The medium therefore could regain ground in the urban population, due to its nicely packaged entertaining doses, interspersed with songs. Riding on cheaper cost of content packaging and repackaging in-turn cost-effective marketing made this medium as one of the most favourite media for paid information dissemination and advertising. This could be easily validated through the recent Delhi elections experience.

Recognising its cost effectiveness vis-a-vis print and electronic media, all the political parties extensively used radio as the medium of communication. With innovative advertising like teasers, anchor-driven programmes, songs, speeches or bytes, radio channels in Delhi were loaded with political blitzkrieg. The TV advertisement revenue by these parties purposely diverted in favour of radio due to its reach, impact and cost-effectiveness.

Of course a section now tunes in to listen to the Prime Minister’s “Mann ki Baat”.

Its cause was helped by the U.S. President Barrack Obama’s recent visit to India. The U.S. President himself is the frontrunner in the use of radio technology as a means of communication.

(The author is Deputy Director, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting)

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