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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2341

Relevance Of Radio In Today’s World

By Rattan Sald -Formerly Director (News), All India Radio (Syndicate Features)

Go anywhere in urban India we come across the question: Is Radio relevant in the present age of communication explosion and social media. But ask the sane question in rural areas, people tell you how radio continues to be useful in their daily life – informing, educating, entertaining and helping to build their capacities. Radio programmes reach people on site. What all you need is a small transistor set.

Yes, the arrival of television, internet, mobile phones and other forms of fast communication posed a threat to radio. Unlike the new kids on the bloc, radio is an audio medium and doesn’t have the advantage of visuals. Yet, it survived the onslaught and is flourishing with the advent of FM across the world, developing and developed countries alike such as the United States, Russia, Japan and India. The radio networks are expanding with their earnings heading north which is clear proof of its popularity and relevance. No surprise, therefore, we have a World Radio Day since 2012.

The day is observed on the 13th February to commemorate the first broadcast of the UN Radio from a make shift studio at the UN Headquarters in New York. It highlights the importance of radio as a medium of educating the people and providing them with information and promoting freedom of expression across cultures and social, economic and political diversity. UN Radio has been broadcasting on international peace and security issues, and social, economic and health problems at large; these broadcasts are translated into different languages and aired by UN member nations. The UN Radio played a useful role in educating people during the Ebola outbreak in Africa; it is now sensitising people about the Zika virus that is spreading Southern America.

All India Radio (AIR) is one of the largest broadcast networks in the world. Started as Indian State Broadcasting Service in 1930 by the British Government, today it has 415 stations educating and entertaining people in about 23 languages and 146 dialects. AIR’s transmission covers more than 92 percent of India’s landmass.

Besides disseminating information and educating people about government schemes and programmes, AIR plays a vital role in the fields of agriculture and health. Its contribution to the success of Green Revolution was phenomenal. Radio listening in village chaupal used to be quite a common sight during the seventies and eighties. Radio Rural Forum jointly sponsored by All India Radio and UNESCO and Unnat Kheti Programme of AIR Jalandhar in Punjab used to be very popular among the farmers. Kisanvani, the voice of farmers was another programme of All India Radio which drew large audiences.

Radio has proved to be of tremendous help during natural calamities when the broadcasts go round the clock without a break. Even on normal days, AIR puts out special weather bulletins for the farmers and the fishermen going to the sea informing them of the prevailing weather conditions so that they are cautioned and take preventive steps.

During Tsunami in December 2004 that created havoc in Tamilnadu coast and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, when all communication links were snapped, AIR alone was ‘live’ broadcasting information desperately needed by the affected people. It helped coordinate relief effort and guide police, and medical teams and those looking for their near and dear ones. Radio dispels rumours and myths spread by anti-social elements during such calamities.

When in June 2013 Uttarakhand was lashed by heavy rains that caused widespread loss of life and road communications, AIR was the only medium for the villagers and the stranded people alike. In fact, local people heard the news about stranded pilgrims at Kedarnath and rushed to their rescue. Precious lives were saved.

Despite its popularity, Television connectivity is not available across the entire country but radio reaches over 99 percent of population. This is why Prime Minister Narenedra Modi has opted for radio to reach out to the masses. His Mann ki Baat programme has become immensely popular right from the first broadcast on Oct 3, 2014. It is a monthly interactive communication session. Modi has spoken on subjects like drug abuse, unity in diversity, skill development and problems facing the disadvantaged sections and minorities. Mann ki Baat programme has become a major source of revenue for AIR because of high advertisement the programme gets.

So, who can deny radio a prime slot among communication networks? It’s cost effective, and will remain a powerful tool in reaching out to the masses even in this age of spurt in social media like Facebook, and Twitter.

- Asian Tribune -

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