Man has always been curious about surroundings and has tried to have a say in the matters that seem to affect him. This curiosity is a natural phenomenon programmed in our genes and this characteristic makes us superior to other living beings. It is due to this very characteristic that man has been able to make his life more comfortable than his ancestors. In the late 19th century, a discovery that made it possible to transmit voice over a few miles via electromagnetic waves, after further developments ultimately led to the invention of radio. Human curiosity has ever been attached to this invention and the change it brought.
Radio, after it became popular among the masses, became an integral part of life. At one point of time it was a part of one’s belongings like clothes, wallet, etc. Decades later, another invention which was much catchier than the radio came into being – television. Instead of voice only, moving pictures could be transmitted. Despite the popularity of television, it didn’t affect the listenership of radio. The satisfaction from the radio especially with entertainment and infotainment programmes was the main reason for its popularity. Also, its portability feature added to the reason behind it’s far and wide acceptance.
It is a bitter truth that time changes everything, Radio not being an exception. The main purpose of radio infotainment along with a tinge of entertainment is rapidly diverting to an extreme opposite function. Now only entertainment part of its main theme and objective is followed and has remained its sole purpose. Although some radio channels are very good and are performing their duties meaningfully and for the very purpose of radio broadcast. But at the same time, a majority of channels as of now are privately owned and broadcast only songs, movie gossips and other contents (sleaze) in the name of entertainment. As a matter of fact, youth comprises of the majority of the listenership of private FM Radio channels and this portion is prone to the ill-effects of vulgarity being fed to them due to their fragile psychological state.
If one tunes in to any of these channels, only songs, ads and filthy debates/surveys are there shrieking out all day long even up to 3.00 in the morning. This schedule is almost constant throughout the week with slight variations, if any. What purpose does it serve to the society in general and youth, in particular, declaring personal affairs in public and dedicating songs to those they are in relation with? This dangerous trend of expression of pseudo emotions in public is detrimental to the cultural ethos that reverberates deep in a place like Kashmir Valley. Mostly, these private stations have anchors who on an average speak only for ten minutes in so-called programmes of 1-hour duration and the remaining duration is for either songs or ads.
The main limitation of these channels is that they divide the listenership of good Radio channels and also attract more and more listeners due to their lucrative yet “immoral” content. Government of J&K recently took cognizance of the public complaints regarding the content aired by these stations and asked the Department of Information to look into the complaints but it seems that no concrete action has been taken regarding the same.
Though post-2001, privatization of FM Radio channels in India has increased its coverage and listenership manifold, but instead of rendering service to the society apart from entertainment, they are unfortunately airing irrelevant, obnoxious and immoral content, thus defining their very basic manifesto and gradually eroding the status of Radio. There are 86 radio channels and 369 radio stations spread in India till date. Commercial needs and market demands shouldn’t be made an excuse for the violation of AIR broadcast code.
Radio has and will remain an amazing infotainment and entertainment providing tool subject to the condition that the immoral and anti-social content is not dished out in the garb of entertainment. If such be the case, then it will only infuse immorality/vulgarity in the minds of young as is the case with the social media in which there is nothing social except the name.
We shouldn’t forget the service rendered by Radio to society. Even today, when Internet has virtually taken over all the entertainment and infotainment platforms, the debates on many of the Radio channels like BBC and Voice of America and also even our regional Radio Kashmir are preferred over it. The quality of their content and its presentation has been contributing and inculcating intellectual tinge in their listeners for decades. This is all due to their expertise, dedication and strict following of certain basic broadcast codes.
In my opinion, at this stage, both government as well as civil society has a role to play. Civil societies should first access the situation and then represent it to the Government that in turn will process it with already laid down procedures under AIR Broadcast Code. Commercialization of FM channels degrade their content as the channels design their content according to the market needs in order to increase their RAM (Radio Audience Measurement) which is analogous to the TRP of Television channels. I am not against the private Radio channels but indeed the content aired by the various private FM radio channels is below the standard.
In conclusion, being a regular Radio listener, I would only reiterate that radio has been an amazing tool that has provided the society infotainment and entertainment in a cost-effective and coherent manner since its inception. And it has transformed societies from an ignorant mass of people to an informed one. Its legacy has braved the harsh blows from the latest technological developments in the past and it will also do the same in the future. In 2014 deluge, radio was the last means of communication to get snapped and first to be restored. Let’s make Radio a Radio and not a media player. It is always better late than never.
(Author is studying Geo-Technical Engineering at Kurukshetra University)