Back in the day—be it the running commentary of an overseas cricket match or live coverage of the Republic Day parade—everyone heard it first on radio, as television in India was in its nascent stage. It was news and music that kept millions of Indians glued to their transistors or, if you were well off, you’d probably have a radiogram with all the bells and whistles.
In spite of television audiences growing in the 80s, there was still a lot of juice left on radio. News would first break on air before it found its way to a predefined slot later in the day on television. The medium was powerful and a radio set was always respected. In rural India, the high point of a wedding would be when someone gifted the couple a transistor! The combination of news and music continues to dominate the air waves, but unfortunately, private FM stations don’t have this luxury yet. Under the phase two guidelines, FM stations don’t have the mandate to broadcast news as there is no mechanism to monitor the same.
However, there might be a dim light at the end of the tunnel, with the phase three guidelines. Licence holders might be permitted to air news, but only the bulletins that are produced by All India Radio. This way, not only does news get monitored, but it also ensures that nothing anti-national goes on-air. It would definitely take a while before the keys are handed over to FM stations to create and produce news content on their own. Until then, FM stations might feel like a dog that can’t bark.
News brings in a much required maturity to the medium. It gets boring when you switch on your radio and always get to hear forced humour and trivial talk. Political chat shows and news is what will give FM stations the same power that the medium had back in the 80s. When that happens, there will be a new race of professionals that will enter the medium and give it that breath of fresh air. See you next week.
The writer’s views expressed here are entirely in his