MS Duhan, DDG(E), Doordarshan

The radio journey from dots and dashes to Mann Ki Baat has been very fascinating and has marked deep signature in the history of information and entertainment. Today, radio has become much more than Tesla, JC Bose, or Marconi could have ever imagined. Traditional radio and radio broadcasting has steadily become a thing of evolution. Prior to 1920s, the radio was primarily used to contact ships that were out at sea. Radio communication was typically achieved by the use of Morse code messages. This was of great benefit to vessels in the water, particularly during emergency situations. With World War I, the importance of the radio became apparent and its usefulness increased significantly. In 1920s, following the war, radios began to increase in popularity amongst civilians. Across the US and Europe, broadcasting stations such as KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and England’s British Broadcasting Company (BBC) began to surface. In modern society, radio is a common technology in the car and in the home. In fact, in today’s world one would be hard pressed to find anyone who has not heard of, seen, or used a radio within his or her life, albeit radio has surfaced in new avatars a like mobile phones, audio bars, etc. Instead, it has steadily evolved with more satellite radio and Internet radio stations. Radios are found not only in homes, but they are also a staple in vehicles. In addition to music, radio talk shows have also become a popular option for many. On the two-way radio front, digital two-way radio allows for one-to-one communication that is typically encrypted. Phone-in programs of radio services are becoming highly popular.

Some of the magnificence and memories of radios cardinal features are accounted as below: 

  • The extreme impact of a radio talk/drama can be easily understood peeping in the history of radio in the US. The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series the Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on Sunday, October 30, 1938, and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of HG Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. It became famous for allegedly causing mass panic, although the reality of the panic is disputed as the program had relatively few listeners. Orson Welles said, “I had conceived the idea of doing a radio broadcast in such a manner that a crisis would actually seem to be happening.” Welles later said, “…and would be broadcast in such a dramatized form as to appear to be a real event taking place at that time, rather than a mere radio play.” However, it made radio very popular.
  • Azad Hind Radio was another powerful radio service that was started under the leadership of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in Germany in 1942 to encourage Indians to fight for freedom. Though initially based in Germany, its headquarter was shifted to Singapore and later to Rangoon following the course of the war in South-East Asia. In those politically disturbed times, it was highly effective at home as well as abroad to enable the freedom fighters stand together and keep in touch with one another. Azad Hind Radio has been very highly trenchant in the annals of freedom of India and evolution of radio. 
  • Mann Ki Baat is an Indian radio program hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in which he addresses the people of the nation on All India Radio, DD National, and DD News. In the episode broadcast on January 27, 2015, the US President Barack Obama co-hosted the show with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both answered a series of questions from Indian citizens. Obama also discussed the impact of some of the policies he had implemented in the US. It was a glorious moment for radio radiance.
  • Radio can be described as the language of emotions. Radio is very powerful because it reaches a large audience quickly, and because it allows the people in that huge audience to interact with one another more easily than television viewers or newspaper readers. It is available everywhere – driving in a car, working in the fields, or while cooking dinner. Radio should be a sane, comforting voice in times of tension or difficulty. Like a friend, your local station should tell you the truth in a calm, unemotional way and help you to focus on solving the problem. Facial expressions are critical to the sound of a voice. If this seems hard to believe, imagine talking to someone on a telephone. Often, a person’s voice indicates whether she is frowning or smiling. Listen to the radio and decide by tone if the announcer is smiling or has a serious expression. On radio, a smile is the equivalent of making eye contact. A smile, even if no one sees it, makes a person sound more inviting, confident, and fresh. Listeners hear words and sounds once and then they are gone. They only have one opportunity to understand and make sense of a story. The best voice for radio is natural and relaxed. The amplitude, pitch, and timbre of sound are important but even the silence is also music. Binaca Geetmala was a weekly radio countdown show of top film songs from Hindi cinema listened to by millions of Hindi music lovers that was broadcast on Radio Ceylon from 1952 to 1988 and then shifted to Vividh Bharati Service of All India Radio network in 1989 where it ran till 1994. AIR news bulletins are very popular and credible among masses. Thus radio is an immortal art.
  • Radio wavelength continued to change – short wave, medium wave to FM and now digital radio and Internet radio. When India became independent in 1947, the All India Radio (Akashvani since 1956) network had only six stations (in Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Lucknow, and Tiruchirappalli), and three radio stations at Lahore, Peshawar, and Karachi fell in the share of Pakistan. The total number of radio sets at that time was about 275,000 in India. Initially, only medium wave and short wave radio transmitters were there. They have large reach but signals are affected by atmospheric disturbances. The coverage of medium wave is very effective. The coverage of medium wave transmitter at Indore (MP) reaches up to Vadodara in Gujarat. The secondary radio signals reach from AIR Rohtak (Haryana) (frequency 1143 kHz) up to Jamshedpur (Jharkhand) during night time. FM broadcasting began on July 23, 1977 in Chennai and was expanded during 1990s. Private FM Transmitters are now there in plenty and find tuned in radio sets of millions of audience across the country.
  • During natural calamities when all channels of communication fail and power supply and telecommunication links are snapped, the only source of communication is good old All India Radio (AIR). Whether it was during the super cyclone in Orissa in 1999, the killer Tsunami of 2004, the Kosi floods in Bihar in 2008, the historic floods in Srinagar and Uttarakhand, All India Radio played a crucial role in times of all these natural disasters. It was in 1999 when tsunami struck Andaman and Nicobar Islands that Port Blair station of AIR took the initiative to broadcast messages of the concerned relatives over radio. The AIR headquarter in Delhi too started an SMS service for relatives of those affected or the victims in Uttarakhand, who had access to mobiles to pass on plain messages or voice messages for broadcast over radio. The response was enormous.
  • With its digitization, radio now offers plurality of channels, stereo capability, single-frequency operation, text messages program, electronic program guide, MOT slideshow program accompanying images plus animation, traffic information, etc. The Internet radio will further act as a catalyst in radio science.
  • Radio finds great role in a country like India, which has 23 officially recognized languages and a total of 1635 rationalized mother tongues. AIR broadcasts in 23 languages and 146 dialects and, given its reach and tenacity, it is a beacon of the cultural diversity of tribal, under-privileged, and minority cultures, and prevents extinction of various dialects. Radio broadcasting has now emerged in a new avatar and its radiance has revolutionized the listening environs of Indian society.

Today radio is undergoing digitization. Internet radio is also finding its audience because of plurality of content and boundary-less reach. There are numerous mediums of communication but radio signals are like “Morning Star.” All India Radio has “a gleeful past, glorious present, and glittering future” and is an important facet of modern civilization. It is contributing significantly in strengthening of social fiber of the nation. Radio content creation needs creative imagination, is an act of precocity art, and its signal synthesis is pure science.