326 stations nationwide. Covering 92% of whole of the subcontinent. Reaching out to 99.19% of an overall population of in excess of 1.2 billion and rising. Available in 23 different languages and in 146 different dialects. These are the official figures as enumerated by All India Radio as per their records available online. So what’s the big deal? They definitely seem to have some of the best figures any radio channel could possibly dream of, right? But, still how many of us would prefer tuning into A.I.R. when you’re given the most obvious choices of other more exuberant and ravishing stations available On Air as in the likes of Radio Mirchi, Radio City, Radio One? Just to name a few from the list of many. Well, in all honesty I would be very much be surprised if there were more takers for A.I.R. in the urban stand point as in comparison with its rural counterparts.
With the start of the year 2008, the whole of the country was re-introduced to a form of mass media which was long forgotten and considered extinct; Radio. With the onset of visual media and the rise of the internet, this form of reaching out to the masses was considered in all of it’s certainty as obsolete. And, it was this very reason that was named time and again to justify the fall of the A.I.R. from it’s position being one of the most reliable and respected means of reaching out to a country that was slumped into a trance of uncertainty and doubt, following the post independence era. But, however, Radio continued to be a very much rivaled and active form of broadcast in the West. The only difference was the fact that, they continued to evolve with time; it ceased to stay dormant and inactive in the face of more challenging forms of media. At one point in time radio was primarily used as a media for news broadcast, but when visual media started playing a more vibrant role in this domain, it had to diversify into other spheres of interests, such as music, debates, discussions and so forth.
Soon as this revival made it’s was into the late 90’s and the early millennium, it struck gold. Advertising. With the limited number of audience it commanded, they were able to use this as an effective tool as to generate a source of revenue, which otherwise used to be a free-for-all service which was accessible to all those with a receiver. It was with this that the whole renaissance for this form of media kicked in. Making note of the prospects at hand, private players started swarming in for their slice of the lion’s share; and before you knew it a whole lot of changes set in, the first would be the exuberant role of a ‘Radio-Jockey‘, as in comparison to the conventional format whereby which anchors for radio shows were streamlined with the news reporters and presenters, the new age of such anchors were rather more charismatic and random individuals who took up a rather unconventional approach of presentation, that was more attractive and all the more more informative to a wider range of audience, specially in sync with the present times and generations.
Now, this was what the buzz was, as far as the west was concerned, and it wasn’t too late before the ripples were felt by various Indians within the private domain who realized the potential and started setting up their own stations. And as per current statistics, there are close to 240 stations in active operations in the country, generating about 8 billion in revenues in 2008 and expecting to touch 18 billion in 2012, as per data and sources available online. Of this Radio Mirchi is reportedly said to have a share of a whooping 40% share of the overall domestic market, while A.I.R. continues to be in the scratch, ironic to the fact that it continues to have an indisputable reach and range over the masses.
The reason for this ‘outrage’, as I would like to refer it to, is rather clearly evident if you click on the following link (http://allindiaradio.gov.in/). Yes, if your response is somewhere related to ‘being old’, well you’re right on spot. It never has made a daring leap to change in the midst of it’s private counterparts. The best part is the fact that if you go back over to it’s official site, you’ll notice a column by the name ‘Archives'; with all do respect, the whole site in itself resembles an archive. That’s where the root cause of the whole problem lies. If you tune into A.I.R. or ‘Akashwani’ (Meaning ‘The Sky’s Voice’) as it’s popularly known among the masses, you’ll find it’s range and choice of programs dull and not in sync with the present times. In such a scenario, it’s isn’t much of a surprise as to why it repeatedly fails to make it’s way into the popularity list. In such a scenario, it’s also very unlikely that it can lure in much advertisements and promotions.
In times of finding itself in such troubled waters, the most obvious answer would be to Anchor itself. A.I.R. has a very huge upper hand as in comparison with it’s rivals; it has the abundant wealth of existing man power and infrastructure; even if you put together the combined resources of all it’s closest rivals and compare it to the former, it wouldn’t add up. It needs to go in and get a hold of jockeys that can attract a lot more audience and one that can rig up the whole rating. The, only hindrance in the way is a strong initiative; that’s the only obvious roadblock in the way. I’m pretty much sure that there’ll be many lining up for the top job, its as obvious and clear as broad daylight. Once, this is set in, it’ll start luring in the necessary attention it rightfully deserves; with this as the ratings are bound to soar up and at the same time gathering up momentum with respect to potential advertising.
This, is most certainly one sphere which has been long lost and forgotten. At one point in time A.I.R. used to be the prime time form of news broadcast, serving as the medium via which the late Prime Minister himself delivered his freedom speech at midnight to hundreds of thousands of Indian‘s about their long cherished dream of independence and free rule, the medium through which it was capable of knitting together the whole country as one during times of war specially during the Indo -China conflicts of the early 60’s and even at times during famines, droughts and epidemics at various stages in time, serving as an effective informer for the displaced, and the needy. But due to lack of proper appraisal, face lifts and management, it has most definitely and certainly on the highway to losing a winnable race, if only it musters up it’s spirits.
In all of the optimism and the opportunism that it can muster up I certainly hope and pray that this great service gets restored in all of it’s pomp and glory which it sustained at one point in time and one which rightfully deserves, rather than let it wash away into the clutches of the private domain.