The Resurgence of Radio in India



Themes: ---
Period : 1993-2002
Organization : ---
Pub Date : 2002
Countries : India
Industry : Media and Entertainment

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The Resurgence of Radio in India | Case Study

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Background Note

Radio has had a tremendous impact on society in the 20th century. Though radio was invented during the late 1890s, public radio services offering information and entertainment content started only in the mid 1910s, first in the US and then in European countries (See Exhibit I for a note on how a radio works). World War I hampered public radio services to some extent, but at the end of the war, the business picked up momentum.

Advertising on the radio started first in the US in 1920; this marked the beginning of commercial radio services. Radio broadcasting stations provided scheduled programs of lectures, news bulletins and other recreational and informative material.

On account of the growing popularity of such radio programs, the demand for commercial airtime increased heavily by 1923, making radio broadcasting a profitable business. The far-reaching capability and immediacy of radio made it very popular across the world by the late 1920s (Refer Exhibit II for a brief note on the history of radio worldwide).

In India, radio broadcasting started in 1927 at Mumbai and Kolkata with two privately owned transmission stations. In 1930, the government acquired these stations and started operating them under the Indian Broadcasting Service. This service was later renamed AIR in 1936 and has since been operated as an independent Government department. From 1957, the radio service also came to be referred to as 'Akashvani.2'

Vividh Bharati, AIR's main entertainment channel, was started in the 1960s. Commercial broadcasting was first introduced on Indian radio in 1967. In the mid-1970s, AIR started offering sponsored programs. Radio's commercials started during the early 1980s on its primary channel Vividh Bharati and were extended to other channels by the mid-1980s.

All these initiatives increased the popularity of radio in the country and also generated huge revenues for AIR (from sponsorship fees and commercial advertisements). AIR also operated an External Services Division (ESD) that broadcasted programs in 24 languages (16 foreign and 8 Indian, languages).

These programs generally consisted of commentaries on current affairs; review of Indian press coverage; news bulletins; talk shows on socio-economic, cultural, historical and political subjects; and classical, folk and popular music from all corners of the country. The major ESD services included the General Overseas Service, Hindi Service and Urdu Service. Though FM radio had long been popular in Western countries, AIR started offering FM channels only in 1977.

The first FM station was started in Chennai. By the 1980s, radio had become a part of almost every household in India, enjoying the patronage of millions of people across the country. Its programs included situational comedies, suspense thrillers, film music based programs, dramas, and discussions and commentaries on health, cooking, mythology, and beauty tips.

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2] A Hindi word, literally meaning 'sound from the skies.'