By Farooq Wani
To talk about the radio may sound old-fashioned today but it was the primary source of timely information and entertainment in the first half of the twentieth century. In fact, radio broadcasting was a path breaking revolution since it allowed people to know what was happening all over the world while sitting at home. During the World Wars, radio was the primary means for information regarding the battlefront and people would anxiously await the news slot to hear the latest about how the armed forces of their countries were performing.
Besides news and politics, radio broadcasts also included a host of other subjects ranging from the mundane like cookery and handicraft to the more nuanced like knowhow and expert advice on professional issues like farming and stock investment to the spiritual. Despite being a voice channel only, radio stations found a way to interact with their audience through programmes that answered queries received through post or on telephone. There were many other such interactive programmes- conveying greetings from a listener to another, playing music on request and even offering advice on how to overcome problems in day-to-day life.
Despite entry of more advanced forms of content providers, the radio has emerged as the ultimate survivor, adapting itself to the tastes of the newer generations of listeners and absorbing newer technologies. In the 1980s and ’90s, it warded- off threats posed by videocassette recorders and digital compact discs by greater emphasis to listener-driven programmes. By the late ‘90s and early 2000s, radio stations were reinventing themselves to cater to niche audiences: there were stations dedicated to specific genres of content — talk radio, punk rock stations, even stations that played music by a single band, 24 hours a day!
Besides increasing general awareness, the radio also provided an excellent source of entertainment as well as a platform for sharing and exchanging ideas and thus was one of the first facilities to kick start the process of converting the world into a global village. Today, the TV and internet driven social media may have reduced the popularity of the radio in urban areas, but is still the favourite of those on the move. In remote areas where internet and electricity aren’t available the radio still remains an important and indispensable source of information dissemination and entertainment – and there are several such places all over the globe.
In order to reach out to people living in remote areas of J&K and keep them informed, the Government of India has set up a string of low power transmitters. Besides news, its radio programmes also cater for their mental and spiritual wellbeing and what’s really commendable is that the broadcasts have been made more meaningful by include programmes like ‘Wadi ki Awaj’ and `Taya ki Baithak’ that concern the common Kashmiri by addressing topical issues like India’s relations with its neighbours, latest developments along the Line of Control [LoC], freedom of press etc.
Radio programmes in J&K not only keep the people aware, but by communicating real facts, help in countering propaganda from across the LoC which is based on lies and at best, half-truths. Since these programmes bring out the truth instead of following a ‘beating around the bush’ policy typical of PoK based radio channels, they are very popular amongst locals, not only in remote and rural areas but in urban centres too. Feedback received through active audience interaction helps the producers to make these programmes more relevant.
American author Margaret ‘Peggy’ Noonan has rightly brought out that while “TV gives everyone an image, but radio gives birth to a million images in a million brains” and in an era that prioritizes customised content, her lines provide the perfect summation of the immense flexibility and the continued relevance of the medium. It is for this reason that the youth mustn’t shun the radio solely to avoid being called old-fashioned. There are no less than 369 operational private radio stations in more than 101 cities and towns across India and these statistics in themselves prove that neither is the radio obsolete, nor its listeners ‘old fashioned’.
The radio has also been the last man standing in times of calamity and disaster. During the massive 2014 floods in Kashmir, it was the radio that played a stellar role in conveying information regarding rescue, relief and rehabilitation work when other mediums became inaccessible. Broadcaster with Radio Kashmir Shamshad Karlwari was among one to provide information regarding the wellbeing of their kith and kin.
Today, radio broadcasting serves rather regional and local communities by narrowing down the broadcasting area. It now accompanies people to their most personal areas (at home, in the car, and on the road) by addressing their personal requirements at different times during the day. Radio channels addressing the needs of special listener groups are increasing. Young adults, the most active radio listeners, prefer private radio stations. A study has determined that radio listening motivates young adults, who are the quickest to accommodate alterations and adopt new technology. Thus, there is a need to revive the habit of listening to the radio in the present generation.
(The author is Editor Brighter Kashmir, Columnist, Political Analyst, & TV Commentator. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)