Resurgence of Radio way back in the 90s was largely due to FM radio. FM radio took its first faltering steps in 1977 when AIR started the first FM channel on its Chennai station. What really brought FM to the centre stage was the introduction of round-the-clock stereo FM service by AIR and the experiment in limited deregulation by leasing out slots to private players at the four metros and later on AIR, Panaji in 1993 and 1994. This experiment in a way is a precursor to the Government policy of issuing licenses to private parties to set up FM stations in the country. Today, there are around 250 FM channels in the private domain, in addition to 23 FM Rainbow and 5 FM Gold channels of All India Radio. There are many more private channels in the pipeline. The city dwellers, craving for infotainment, were captivated by FM. Indeed listening to FM became the fashion of the day especially with the youth. With the proliferation of the inexpensive FM receivers, car radios and mobile devices, FM received tremendous impetus and has become a major money-spinner through advertising revenue.
FM brought in the radio jockey culture. Listener-friendly programming tailored to the tastes with perky presentation by young radio jockeys and presenters full of verve and vivacity caught the imagination of audiences everywhere. All India Radio, as the pioneer in FM broadcasting, has the privilege of grooming several radio jockeys who have become household names in different parts of India. Even before the advent of FM, AIR has been using stock characters for compering its programmes for children, women and rural folk/farmers. With their ability to communicate in the local dialect and idiom, they could establish instant rapport with the target audiences and enjoyed their trust.
To meet the manpower requirements of sudden and rapid expansion of AIR’s network including its Rainbow/Gold channels, AIR has been engaging announcers, radio jockeys and anchors on casual assignment basis subject to exigencies. Some of the on-air personalities, with their captivating style and panache, became youth icons enjoying huge fan following. Their success is a matter to rejoice for AIR which has scouted and nurtured such talent. But then, as they say, it takes all sorts to make a world. Some misguided RJs of FM Rainbow and FM Gold have started an orchestrated and vicious campaign to tarnish the image of AIR, spreading a canard to mislead the public at large. They did not hesitate even to besmirch reputation of their supervising officers with wild innuendoes and insinuations with utter disregard for canons of decency and decorum.
In their latest complaint, they have talked about an undertaking which they were required to submit if they are on the panel of multichannel stations of AIR. As there is abundant talent, AIR has been able to empanel a large number of them from time to time. To bring in variety, AIR does not allow more than six bookings/assignments in a month or 72 in a year. This limit is strictly adhered to all over the vast AIR network, including FM Rainbow/FM Gold. But it has come to the notice of AIR that some casual presenters at multichannel stations of AIR were shifting from one channel to another in a deliberate and surreptitious attempt to exceed this limit. Prominent among the multichannel stations of AIR is the set-up in Delhi with its Rajdhani, Indraprastha, Vividh Bharati, FM Rainbow and FM Gold channels, apart from channels of ESD, GOS in particular, National Channel of AIR, Urdu Service of AIR etc. AIR has devised an undertaking to arrest this trend. Some casual announcers/RJs are peeved about submission of such an undertaking as they have been managing on the sly to satisfy their rapacity at the expense of AIR’s established norms.
RJs are not repeat NOT on the establishment of All India Radio. And each panel of casual RJs is subject to review so that in a fiercely competitive market, AIR is able to compete and fulfill its mandate. This temporary panel is similar to the ones we have in respect of comperes, drama voices, singers, composers, instrumentalists, field investigators for Audience Research and part-time Correspondents. One voice in one area in perpetuity tends to sound stale and monotonous, weaning away the public as well as the advertisers. In a nutshell, AIR cannot but review its panel on definite frequencies to retain the best and take those who lost their sheen off the air.
AIR has some time-honoured conventions and established practices. As far as programme presentation is concerned, announcers, RJs and anchors do have the liberty to embellish their shows but AIR does not encourage loud or crass style to helm their programming. The station managers are alert to ensure that no RJ goes overboard.
AIR will be happy if the RJs on its panel emerge as channel drivers by sheer dint of their on-air performance, winning adulation and applause from the listening public. Such jockeys/presenters will always be an ornament on our head but we are wary of those who underperform or vitiate the atmosphere. Let them not indulge in sullying the image and reputation - as a handful few of them are wont to do - of the very organization which they have the privilege to work for. Such tactics are unbecoming of true broadcast professionals. AIR is duty-bound to safeguard its regulations in the professional interests of the Organization which under no circumstances will be compromised.