It is easy to grit your teeth at the irony of FM radio commercials. One entreats you like Gandhi, to become the change you want to see in the world because when a small change occurs, it could lead to a big one. Like living in a gated community named after an American valley, or so we are told in a sing-song voice.
Then, there is another one faking a 20-something who wants her nose fixed and of course, the jingle then tells us about this magical plastic surgery haven that can make us all feel better about ourselves.
There is so much hard-sell on FM channels that one inevitably misses the simplicity of having just one radio station (AIR) where music was capsuled sensitively in various time zones and jingles were at the most laughable but never annoying. You heard Sangeet Sarita in the mornings, Chhaya Geet at night and even the short skits featuring Inspector Eagle (sponsored by Eagle flasks) were eagerly awaited.
Even in the sponsored programmes, the commerce never took over the content like it does now. In India though, radio is still primarily about music if you discount the constant drivel RJs are expected to deliver in between unending commercial breaks. But we have not yet thought of radio in terms of an Indian Howard Stern.
Imagine if we too had a Shock-Jock, someone who always spoke his mind on a syndicated show and had a following rivalling the fame of pop stars? The fact is, that apart from WorldSpace, we have not had a subscription-based satellite radio service to allow the birth of someone like Stern.
Also our sensibilities are different. We would get shocked at swear words and irreverence. It is hard to imagine a self-willed, millionaire radio jockey in India who, despite being fined for indecent content, can go on to sign million dollar deals, feature in TV shows, write books, helm political campaigns and become a benign thorn in the side of naysayers. We have so much fluff on our radio but very little opinion, intellect and provocation. With the stirrings of Internet radio and technology democratising the process of opinion making, maybe India too will get voices that provoke thought rather than boredom.