When I was a child, which was a good 70 years ago, my favourite piece of furniture was this relic from the World War days, with finely-panelled wood and a rectangular screen with numbers and alphabets etched on it. My folks told me it was a radiogram. When they switched it on, it was like a magic box—a voice came out of it, as did music and, occasionally, there were radio plays as well. Little did I know that this ‘magic box’ was the only source of entertainment for millions in this country.
The beauty of radio then was its simplicity. You could sit for hours together and listen to some great programming. It wasn’t a vehicle of advertising like it is today and maybe that made a huge difference when it came to the listening experience.
When you hear radio today, in any part of our country, you’ll realise there’s a race happening between stations—the only difference, there is no finish line. It’s always a grand production, even if it is just tearing open a packet of peanuts on-air. Trying too hard to please the listener has brought a lot of flak to the medium.
If you are stuck in traffic, you will have time to glance around at the many cars around you and find out who is listening to what. Most people behind the wheel will have their own music playing or a pen drive stuck into their music systems. Radio stations need to figure out why this is happening.
And for that, radio stations need to dig deep and figure out what the listener actually wants, rather than forcing a platter of pointless programming on them. It wasn’t this complex back in the golden days of radio because the thought was to always simplify.
A lot of radio units around the country look like they want to embrace a new code of programming, which is a good sign for the medium. When and how only God knows. But until then, make sure you carry your music when you drive.
— Niladri (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The writer’s views expressed here are entirely in his personal capacity.