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Thank you for the radio

Promiti Phukan cherishes her radio days   | Photo Credit: arranged

If memes are to be believed, then it is true when it is said, ‘Home is where the wifi is.’ Wifi signals have become almost synonymous with one’s connect to the world. But before all this came, there was only the humble radio. Be it entertainment or news, that was the world’s only medium to know what was happening elsewhere.

It is World Radio Day. A day formally announced by UNESCO in 2011, after a suggestion put forward by Spain to celebrate this important means of communication. While we fret and fume with weak wifi or 3G connectivity, in some parts of the world, radio still remains an important lifeline to the outside world.

The need to celebrate Radio day is all the more important because as a site says, “In remote farming communities in Australia, children learn their school work through radio. In poor communities in Africa, villages gather around the radio each evening to keep up to date on national news and hear music and speeches. Radio has been superseded by the internet and satellite communications for large parts of the world, but for millions of less fortunate people, radio is still a miracle of technology.”

For some, radio as an instrument might just be a nostalgic piece but even today there are people who feel radio has more potential than the internet or any other networking medium. When the floods ravaged Visakhaptnam and every network including electricity failed, it was the radio that connected and helped rescue work, points out Farhan Ashhar, convenor of Hyderabad Amateur radio. Farhan, who also restores and collects radios, has more than nostalgic moments to share. “Worldwide, radio is seeing resurgence. More and more smaller radio stations are coming up, primarily with governments making it easier to get licenses and setting up a studio and transmitter with modern technology.

In India, the government looks upon private radios as a source of revenue rather than an essential outreach initiative. The FM licenses are prohibitively expensive and the license fee is impossible to recover without resorting to aggressively commercial content.

The government is winding up its shortwave and medium wave transmissions and encouraging private commercial FM stations instead. In effect, providing the rural areas with content that is pertinent to them is being replaced with FM radios that sell filmi content with urban aspirations. The Vividh Bharati, for instance, is no longer available on medium wave.” He makes a point when he says, “For a city that boasts of multilingual image, not a single FM channel has any Hindi/Urdu programming. All of them incessantly play Telugu film content.”

Farhan explains as he shows his radios, “The second radio is a German Metz. My parents used to play it all the time when I was growing up. One of my earliest memories is that of abba listening to BBC world service on this radio. I made my first ham radio contacts with just this radio.” Of the radios that he has, one of the radio them in his possession was made by his friend Venkata Narasappa. “He made it sitting in his village many years ago and is entirely made from valves, before transistors became common in radios,” points out Farhan. Also in Farhan’s possession is a BC-348. It was produced by the American Air Force and flown on almost every war plane during the World War.

However, for many, radio brings in a lot of nostalgia. Promiti Phukan, a music teacher, says the radio was her first teacher and before she knew about the Grammy awards it was the Sunday afternoon music programme that kept her updated about the charts and latest tracks. “In Guwahati, every youngster kept track of that time in the afternoon. All India radio did a great job. One of our school teachers and my aunt used to be the announcers on radio. It was a joyous time. While I love my iPod, I still cherish those days,” she recollects.

Say radio and it throws up a lot of emotions for many and this includes a practise which most youngsters did to create their personal collection of cassettes. “The task was to write down US and UK top ten tracks — the Davelee Dave Lee Travis show on BBC which was also my favourite. Then I would pick and choose the songs I wanted and hand over the list to a local cassette shop. In a day my customised cassette would be ready. That collection was the best because they were further segregated according to mood, artists and genre,” says Uzzal Mohan, a communication consultant.

Radio, some say, was a movement and the present FM channels are yet to give what AIR gave all of us.


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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 7:35:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/thank-you-for-the-radio/article6886601.ece

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