M. Jothimani, Assistant Director, Programme Head, and Shantha Srinivasan, Senior Announcer seen at one of AIR Tiruchi's recording studios. Photo:B.Velankanni Raj
There is a palpable sense of excitement among senior executives of the All India Radio, Tiruchi as the station gets ready to conclude its year-long celebration of its platinum jubilee this week.
The station, one of six pioneering stations in pre-Independent India, and the second in the erstwhile Madras State after Chennai, has been recording not just the pulse of the people, but also has been an important link between the public and the government for the past 75 years.
Its establishment in May 16, 1939 with a 5 KW medium wave transmitter from a rented premises in Tiruchi’s Williams Road, was marked by a message from C. Rajagopalachari, the then Chief Minister of Madras State and Lionel Fielden, the first Controller of Broadcasting.
The station today functions from its own building on the Bharathidasan Salai, and is equipped with a 100 KW high power transmitter that caters to 10 districts – Tiruchi, Peramabalur, Ariyalur, Karur, Salem, Namakkal, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Pudukottai. From April 14 this year, the entire process of programming has been converted from analogue to digital format.
“We are switching over to digital technology, but we are still a public service broadcaster,” says M. Vasuki, Deputy Director General, AIR Tiruchi. “Since we are not in this for revenue, or advertising, our role will remain strong and crucial for the country,” she adds.
AIR Tiruchi has three channels – the youth-oriented FM Rainbow (5 a.m. to midnight), news and information-heavy Primary (5.45 a.m. to 2.45 p.m.; 5.30 p.m. to 11.05 p.m.), and the 24-hour Carnatic music Ragam DTH (produced in collaboration with AIR Bangalore) – to cover topics ranging from agriculture and education to women’s issues, culture and literary appreciation.
It is among the rare radio stations to devote at least two hours of programming every day to agriculture, a key occupation in the Cauvery delta districts.
“We try to highlight inspiring success stories in farming, so that listeners from other areas too can pick up these ideas,” says B. Saravanan, Programme Executive. “At least 70% of our programming is done outside the studio to keep the broadcasts relevant and interesting.”
The station has also played a crucial role in the preservation of Carnatic music (especially the Tamil stream), and folk arts of the state. Aspiring singers and musicians must first pass through a rigorous audition system before they are permitted to go on air. As many as 150 such graded artistes belong to the AIR Tiruchi zone.
“It is an honour for our station that some of the most sought-after names in the field of performing arts have specially requested to record in our studios,” says M. Jothimani, Assistant Director and Programme Head.
“We also have a valuable archive of sound clips that showcases our national and state history down the ages,” she adds. See related story.
The recent boom in commercial FM radio has not been lost on the state broadcaster, says programme executive R. Venkateswaran. “We are modifying ourselves according to the taste of the people, but even in FM, we aim at info-tainment.”
“The habit of listening to the radio will never really go away,” says Mrs. Jothimani. “The devices may have changed, but there will always be a listener.”
The curtains will fall on the platinum jubilee celebrations with a cultural evening in Tiruchi on June 25.