Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Prasar Bharati-A.I.R. Resources - A Technology Centre for marketing the vast infrastructure resources of Prasar Bharati.

Prasar Bharati one of the largest broadcast facilities setup in its two organisations - All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan (DD) catering to one billion people.
AIR Resources provides total solution for Broadcasting, audio, video and tele-communication needs by pooling from Prasar Bharati's vast reservoir of resources in the form of Infrastructure, Human Resources and Technical Expertise in the field of broadcasting and related areas.
AIR Resources is open to commercial opportunities & Revenue Earning ventures in the field of broadcasting covering planning, installation, operation & maintenance of broadcast facilities 
  • To initiate appropriate measures & develop business opportunities to undertake profitable projects and activities in broadcasting sector.
  • To allow other broadcasters / telecom providers to use Prasar Bharati hardware / software infrastructure by charging licence fee / usage fee.
  • To provide consultancy & services to various broadcasting organizations, private companies, telecom service providers, ISPs etc.
  • To undertake system design, integration with existing infrastructure, drawing of specifications, costing, formulation of proposals & other related works for the clients.
  • To undertake installation, operation and maintenance of broadcasting facilities.
  • To harness inner strengths of the organisation to identify, develop and consolidate its resource base.
  • To generate revenue by taking profitable venture in the field of broadcasting, computers and communications.
  • To provide world class consultancy services and undertake turnkey jobs in the specialised field of broadcast engineering and related areas.
  • To facilitate growth of Indian Broadcasting & Telecommunication sector by optimal utilization of Broadcasting facilities and resources.
  • To become premier national and global provider of broadcast transmission infrastructure and related services. 
1.Sharing of Prasar Bharati Infrastructure such as Tower, (STL Tower, self supporting SW tower, integrated TV/FM tower) building, land on licence fee basis, on most competitive rates to Broadcast Service Providers.
  • Towers and space to Mobile operators on rental : Very affordable Rate Card, upto 70 mtr.
  • Tower, covered space and Open space for Pvt. FM Broadcasters on very affordable rates to have minimum gestation period in all 91 cities proposed by Ministry of I&B under Phase-II Scheme 
2. Consultancy services including feasibility studies, turn-key jobs and operations & maintenance in the specialized fields of
(i)  Terrestrial Broadcasting for Radio and Television : This includes the frequency planning, coverage planning, system design, installation, testing and commissioning, operation and maintenance of terrestrial broadcast FM/MW/SW transmitter networks.

(ii) Satellite Broadcasting: This includes planning and system design, execution and operation of fixed and mobile (SNG) uplink and down-link systems using both analog and digital technologies.

(iii) Studio systems including interior design, acoustics, state-of-the-art Radio & TV studios and post production equipment.

(iv)  Data Broadcasting & Internet Broadcasting.

(v)  Acoustics and audio video system for theatres, auditoriums and conference halls.

3. Turnkey solutions for establishment of 50 Watt FM Community Radio Station for Universities/Colleges/Residential Schools.
4. Selling of Air time on MW/FM/SW Broadcast transmitter network of AIR to educational/ agricultural institutes.
5. Providing on site and institutional training in various disciplines of broadcasting.
  • Project Implementation and co-ordination.
  • Software development, Non-linear Editing and Animation.
  • Operation and Maintenance of broadcast Transmitter and Studio Equipment.
  • Network Planning and Management.
6. Software development and content packaging.
7. Civil & Electrical construction work specially for broadcasting setups, Auditoriums and conference halls etc.
8. Transfer of Technology.
  • Remote Telemetry system for FM Broadcast Transmitter
  • Satellite based Telemetry system for remotely located, unmanned TV transmitter.
  • FM Broadcast Transmitter & Antenna
  • Digital News gathering for Radio PSTN/ Cellular/ SAT Phone/ ISDN.
  • Radio News room Automation system
  • RDS & DARC on FM transmitters
9. Performance Measurement and Field Strength Survey Analysis of Broadcast System after completing Project.
10. Test facilities for Acoustic material testing
Acoustical measurements and Electro Acoustic Transducer Testing

Key objectives in every project undertaken are:
  • Flexible, state-of-the-art and cost effective solution to every customer’s specific requirement.
  • Emphasis on total professional approach, on schedule completion of projects and customer satisfaction.
  • High quality and cost effective operation and maintenance support.
  • Consultancy and advice in selection of appropriate equipment in customer’s best interest.
  • Technical Expert Services Groups
  • Acoustics Engg., Antenna Engg., Audio Engineering, Automation, Telemetry, FM Data Broadcasting, DRM, Digital Video, Internet, Networking, Propagation and Frequency Planning, Satellite & Microwave, Video Systems.
Studio set-ups, transmitters, Terrestrial & Satellite Linking system, lands & buildings
Man power 
Core team of 3400 qualified Engineering Managers/ Expert Engineers to do basic work of consultancy, soliciting business, technical design, Draws the staff form Prasar Bharati to execute projects and activities

AIR Resources' set up and managed on the lines of profit centres in a corporate entity under AIR.
At apex. Level CEO, Prasar Bharati assisted by an empowered committee consisting of DG:AIR, Engineering-In-Chief (AIR), DDG(F), ADG (AIR Resources).
ADG (AIR Resources), responsible for implementation of projects & fulfilling commitments to the clients.
·         Providing turnkey solutions to IGNOU in setting up FM Transmitters for Gyan Vani channels at 40 places in the country. - Sixteen Gyan-Vani stations at Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Allahabad, Lucknow, Coimbatore, Visakhapatnam, Mysore, Varanasi, Raipur, Rajkot, Jabalpur, Bangalore, Bhopal, Guwahati & Mumbai have been commissioned. At other 18 places Installation is in progress.
·         Providing Prasar Bharati’s Infrastructure viz. land, building and tower on rental basis to IGNOU at all Gyan Vani stations, Private broadcasters at Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Lucknow; BSNL- at Chennai, Port Blair, Ahemdabad, Sholapur, Vishakhapatnam, Bhopal, Sholapur and Udhampur; MTNL-at New Delhi; AIRTEL at Port Blair, Banswara, Mount Abu, Guwahati, Jowai, Jorhat; HUTCH at Chennai and seven places in Rajasthan; Reliance Infocomm at Bhadrawati and Shillong; TATA Teleservices at Mount Abu.
·         Undertaken Operation and Maintenance of 16 IGNOU Gyan Vani transmitting stations
·         AIR Resources has signed MoU with the Universities / Educational institutions for providing turnkey consultancy services for setting up their Community Radio Stations.
·         Provided Airtime on 96 FM Tr. in AIR network to Deptt. Of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture for broadcasting of KISAN- VANI Programme.
·         Providing Airtime on AIR 10 kW FM Tr. At AIR, Shillong to IGNOU for Gyan Vani Channel.
·         Providing AIR Studio facilities to IGNOU at Rajkot, Jabalpur, Varanasi, Guwahati, Shillong.


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Prasar Bharati Chief Executive Officer,Sh.Jawhar Sircar's Interview today in Indian Express


In this Idea Exchange moderated by Senior Editor Archna Shukla, Sircar notes that he was brought in to clean up the body.

May 25, 2014 at 6:48am

‘If I knew there’s been no promotion for 30 years, no equipment for 20 years, I would not have taken up this job’

Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar feels he would have failed in his duties had he not talked about the lack of autonomy following the row over DD’s Narendra Modi interview. In this Idea Exchange moderated by Senior Editor Archna Shukla, Sircar notes that he was brought in to clean up the body

Archna Shukla: Jawhar Sircar is the first Prasar Bharati CEO to take on the government. Of course, autonomy is something that everybody has been talking about for the longest time, but nobody spoke about it so openly from within the Prasar Bharati.

It’s strange and painful that I had to come out in the public, but I didn’t ask for it. It is not about taking on the government. I have worked with the government for 37 years, and there is a misunderstanding that I am taking on the minister. As civil servants, we are trained not to do so, you don’t forget 37 years in a few days.
There is a clause somewhere that is preventing further autonomy and professionalisation. I am not pro X or pro Y; I am pro autonomy. This job is an Act of Parliament that says that I have a duty to perform. If I go back on that for the sake of expediency or for being a gentleman, I would be failing in my duties.
It’s the first time in the last 20 years that the issue of Prasar Bharati’s autonomy has been raised in the public domain. We had resolved in the PB Board that the one glaring anomaly in our functioning is that news is given to us by the Act. But the operation part, that is news control, rests with the Government of India.
They appoint, disappoint, transfer, post and we learn it from the newspapers that somebody has been posted there. I have no say. I have tried desperately to have a say, to know who has  news sense, who has a flair for electronic media, who would be better in a regulatory job like Registrar of Newspapers, who would be better in films.

My humble submission to the government is that AIR and DD require a specialisation that is different from other regulatory jobs. It is our duty to voice the government’s achievements, but a public broadcaster is expected to have a clinical, balanced approach too. All we said is that these boys are good, allow them to join us. We have 500-plus offices, we can circulate them, so there is no question of them rotting in one place or developing vested interests. Allow us the freedom to turn them around, the chance to make them first-rate professionals. I’ll send them out,  send them in, I’ll tell them to pick up nuances rather than go into sarkari mode. You should know who is your master of transfer, posting, etc. I have never said that they have interfered. I have said that there is a shadow — the fact that you might have to go back there, the fact that ultimately someone who controls your destiny may not look upon it well is good enough to cast a shadow, that’s all. I didn’t ask for a debate on this.

Archna Shukla: Can you give us an inside view of how the Narendra Modi interview was ‘procured’? Was the unedited part sent to someone in the government?

There are 21 major Doordarshan channels and 35 major Akashvani stations. What happened was like this. At 3.30-4 pm on a Sunday, there was an outburst on social media, which was conveyed to me by my friends. I rang up the DG, News. Frankly, that was the first time that I heard the interview was done. I asked him, ‘What’s the problem?’ He said, ‘Thoda maamla hai. Bird sounds and others have come in, we need to do editing’. He’s a gentleman. I believed him. He said, ‘I would like to balance it out tomorrow’.

Archna Shukla: Who is ‘he’?

Mr (S M) Khan. He said, ‘I would like to balance it out’. I said, ‘If you have it in your hand, don’t delay it. You are a newsman. Don’t hold a hot property like that in your hand’. He said, ‘Aaj hi karenge’. It’s only the day after that the news came out saying it was edited. So we asked him again… He gave a statement saying it’s a collective decision. We can order an inquiry, we may do it, but if X is found guilty or Y is found failing, I think it’s just the naivete of not understanding. There are two good boys with me, suppose I find someone guilty, can I take action? That’s the low point. If I can’t take action, do you do something where you have to end up eating humble pie? We have sought legal opinion.

Raj Kamal Jha: When you say if somebody is guilty, guilty of what? If you look at the interview and what was not shown, somebody can turn around and say it’s my judgment, so why guilty?

No. I have used the word ‘if’. I won’t take a judgmental call on a newsman. I know where my limitations are. Supposing there is an inquiry and they say it’s a bad call and maybe a reprimand would do, who can do the reprimand? If the CEO can’t do it, where’s discipline? The Act was passed in 1990. There are two sections — 31 and 32 — that stand out like sore thumbs. I am almost convinced that if we go back to the files of 1990, we will find that these were inserted later. These say that rule-making powers, promotion powers, serving powers, equipment powers are with the government. I feel it was not a great act of magnanimity though it was the mission of I K Gujral to do it… In 20 years, there has been no recruitment, no promotions. You ask a guy to work, he looks at you, spits on the floor, and says, ‘What do you want me to work for? I joined as a programme executive and I am retiring next month as a programme executive’. This is complete demoralisation. You can’t function with a force of 32,000. These are the pains of non-autonomy. Do you know there’s no term called radio jockey? Thirty years ago, the term didn’t exist, so we call them casuals. There is no Panel Control Room (PCR), no Camera Control Room (CCR), these terms didn’t exist, so they do not exist even now. I can’t explain to babus at the lower level that these are required. Give me recruiting powers, I will stick my neck out.

Coomi Kapoor: What you are saying is that the Prasar Bharati CEO is a figurehead?

Prasar Bharati can operate on a day-to-day basis, but should not get overtly ambitious about things like promotions.

Coomi Kapoor: You have no control over your staff?
 No, I have control over my staff, minus promotions, recruitment and service conditions.

Shailaja Bajpai: How did  Modi obtain the full video of the DD interview? He was the first one to release the part with Priyanka.

Till date, I have not found out whether there was a fourth camera. I was told in the report that there were three camera operators, they were cleaning up the external sounds. It appears there may have been a fourth camera, and it’s only when the full thing comes out that we will know. The point is that of judgment call — an editor takes a call, another group of senior editors makes a judgment.

D K Singh: With so many private channels, why should taxpayers pay for a public broadcaster?

It’s open to the taxpayer to take a call. If the wider issue is whether we need a public broadcaster, I would love to join the debate. There is need for a public broadcaster on another count. In Manipur, everyday we telecast in Manipuri, six major dialects and 23 minor dialects. That accounts for 30 lakh people, 30 broadcasts. In Manipur, that’s almost the only service available. In Kargil, there is only one person. There is just one person in Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh. We have a role in uneconomic routes. I would not go to illogical lengths to defend it, but look around the world, no one has given up public broadcasting. But it’s a thing that should be open to debate.

D K Singh: You talked about a discussion on balancing things out over Modi’s interview. Were you suggesting that you sought Rahul Gandhi’s interview and you didn’t get it?

I didn’t, the news channel boys did. A public broadcaster needs to balance out to the extent possible.

Shubhajit Roy: How many times do you get a call from a minister or bureaucrat to play down news?

This kind of request comes from everyone — ‘I am having a medical council meeting, I’m having an XYZ thing, would you like to have a look?’ I say, sure. I have not got (requests myself), and in the past six months, I don’t think I have had the chance to meet the minister.
Shailaja Bajpai: These requests don’t come to you, but presumably, they come to Mr Khan. Have they, at any stage, said there’s too much pressure from the government or the PMO?

to help us personalise your reading experience.
Mr Khan speaks in monosyllables. I’m old enough to sense that things could be wrong. So there’s a set of correspondence that has gone to the board where I have expressed my dismay that these things were going on. I have sent it to the ministry, saying would you like to keep a watch on A or B, because I’m not going to take it (this news). Nobody refuted. I used silence as a stopper.
Rohit Alok*: Would you regard the deleted portion of the Modi interview as politically insignificant?I didn’t take a call, but it may have been more appropriate to have the whole thing out, since you knew somebody else had a copy.
Coomi Kapoor: I&B Minister Manish Tewari’s point was that the government does the payments, so it should have a say.Salaries are paid from the Consolidated Fund of India and we are all custodians, in some form or the other. It is the taxpayers’ money, so nobody owns it. Many countries draw their sustenance from either a licence fee or a funding that comes straight. The other model is to have a technologist committee, have an audit committee with CAG’s man on top of you. This is the transparent model that we have suggested. Apart from this, put us back with UPSC, put us back with SSC for junior staff. Given a choice, I would no longer go in for permanent recruitment. The entire media has contractual appointments.
Y P Rajesh: What is the way out of this logjam on autonomy?Discourse. The Pitroda committee says the government and the people of India have invested in such huge infrastructure. Hindustan Lever set up FM channels in Bihar and went gaga over it. FM channels have been inaugurated by us over the last two years. Let X or Y run it, provided there’s nothing contrary to the accepted principles. There are around 1,400 terrestrial towers, you have something called white spaces from which you can access broadband. There is digital terrestrial light mode, one of the superior streaming instruments. To my horror, I found that we have only 39 terrestrial antenna and it would take us 30 years to have complete digital terrestrial. The government has limitation of funds. Don’t sell the family silver, but put it on an escrow account so that you can keep drawing.
Y P Rajesh: Do you think things can change after the new government takes over?The interesting spin-off of this painful debate has been that many people have talked of a Prasar Bharati revamp. With due deference to the democratic process, whatever comes up, there’s a discourse and that’s all.
Raj Kamal Jha: Have you ever had a conversation like this one with your minister?

Twice, I had the good fortune of meeting him. Then I met him in the public fora.

Raj Kamal Jha: What was his feedback?
 He appeared to be open. He is ill, and unavailable.

D K Singh: What happened to DD’s international project?

DD International is a limping channel. We get Rs 3-4 crore against a minimum of Rs 2,000 crore. I wanted a honeycomb model. Which means if Zee has penetrated some countries, let’s piggyback on Zee instead of trying to do it ourselves. If NDTV has made a pitch somewhere, let’s piggyback. After all, NDTV and others came piggybacking on us.

Kaunain Sheriff*: What’s happened to the modern equipment procured during the CWG?It’s very rarely used.
Shubhajit Roy: You worked with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the culture secretary when he held the portfolio. What was your impression of his decisiveness in the ministry? As Prasar Bharati CEO battling autonomy issues, have you ever written to the PM, with whom you share an equation, or the President?

I don’t know whether I share equations. I worked with them at a junior level. Culture accounts for little bits of chicken feed, small amounts. I’d like to think that he is tolerant. I have not reported to him on these, because I don’t blame the minister for everything. Micro management is not the function of a government.

D K SINGH: There’s an impression that your stint as cultural secretary got you close to the Gandhi family and was instrumental in your appointment as the Prasar Bharati CEO.

Prasar Bharti CEO is selected through a process. I was told by the only person I interacted with — Ms Ambika Soni — in one interview that they wanted somebody to clean up the place.

Raj Kamal Jha: Much of what you are facing now, did you know about it when you took up the job?
If I knew half of it, I wouldn’t have taken up the job. If I knew that there’s been no promotion for 25-30 years, no equipment for 20 years, I would not have taken up this job.

Archna Shukla: Do you think the government is callous? Didn’t your predecessors care at all? Is it a systemic failure or is it about individuals?

For 17-18 years, this has been remote-controlled by the I&B Ministry in the form of additional secretaries. I have two predecessors, one I have never met and the other, whom I have met, is Mr B S Lalli. I will not make any public judgment about them. I have two years and a few months left. You require quite some time to make a breakthrough, provided the questions that you raised are answered — Do you need a public broadcaster in this form? Do you need a public broadcaster only for remote areas? Do you need a broadcaster to contend with external broadcasts? Do you need a broadcaster who becomes a carriage provider rather than a content provider? Do you need a broadcaster who sells content off to the last mile?

D K Singh: Do you get bothered by paid news?

No. I wish we could have got some (laughs).

Shailaja Bajpai: Do you believe there will ever be a political will to give autonomy?I

have seen the swing turn around. If there’s a will, everything is possible.

Shobhana Subramanian: Have you at any point seen any iota of will?

I saw some amount of it in Ms Soni. Mr Jaipal Reddy was also like that.

Shobhana Subramanian: You have never found it in Mr Tewari?

He’s been ill. I found him one of the sharpest ministers. If only we had a one-to-one, without these fellows coming up, maybe we could have carried on. It was our collective misfortune.

This Idea Exchange was held before the results were declared

SOURCE: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/if-i-knew-theres-been-no-promotion-for-30-years-no-equipment-for-20-years-i-would-not-have-taken-up-this-job/99/

Saturday, 24 May 2014


RadioAsia2014: Successes and challenges for Asian radio

An impassioned plea to Indian radio broadcasters from K. Padmakumar from Manipal University
Saturday’s final session at RadioAsia 2014 saw eight panelists from around the world share their expertise.
Radio listenership in India is going down not up, according to academic research, said K Padmakumar from the School of Communication at Manipal University.
Sounding a warning to private radio broadcasters ahead of Phase III of FM licencing, Padmakumar said a dearth of innovation in on-air programming and a lack of differentiation was to blame for the fall in listening.
Other issues include too many commercial activities – advertising and promotions in programming, he said.
Padmakumar added that there was too much pressure on on air talent as cost-cutting by stations had led to too much multi-tasking.
Phase III will see 839 FM frequencies auctioned many in India’s smaller cities and towns.
Digital Radio
Three Asian countries have begun or will start digital radio trials over the next few months, said Bernie O’ Neill, Project Director of World DMB.  A trial is already under way in Malaysia,  while Thailand (military coup permitting) and Indonesia are due to test the technology in 2014.
Hong Kong already has 15 DAB+ audio services live on air.  Over 300,000 devices have been sold in the territory to date.
Historically, one issue that has hampered digital radio take up has been the lack of support by car manufacturers.  But that is changing, said O’ Neill. New figures show 55 percent of new vehicles in the UK now come fitted with DAB digital radio.
Another panelist – Albert Tseng from Keystone Semiconducter, which manufactures digital radio chips – warned that take up of the technology was still slow and that killer applications and more compelling content were necessary for digital radio to succeed.
Digital Radio Consortium (DRM)
Giving an updated on DRM technology,  media specialist Sharad Sadhu said India’s public broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) continues to roll-out new transmitters with the DRM standard.
AIR is current running the largest shortwave DRM service in the world and medium wave services are planned.
An estimated 78 new transmitters will ensure around 70 percent of the Indian population will be able to receive DRM services.
Several DRM sets are now being produced.
Once again, Sadhu called for manufacturers to consider integrated digital radio chipsets, allowing FM, DAB+, DRM and other digital radio standards on the same radio set.
Rafiqul Haque. Managing Director of Radio Today, Bangladesh updated the audience on the country’s nascent radio scene.  His station was the first private FM station in 2006.
When it first launched,  advertising agencies and listeners were sceptical.  But in eight short years, the station has built not only a successful brand but transformed radio into a much loved media.
While the station runs a music intensive format, Radio Today also features several radio drama series and community projects about health and well-being.
As a partner of Voice of America (VOA), the station broadcasts news bulletins from the international broadcaster.


Prasar Bharati CEO,Sh.Jawhar Sircar's Article in The Telegraph


- What is the best cure for India’s ailing museums?

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Prasar Bharati CEO, Sh. Jawhar Sircar's Definitive Article about All India Radio-A Must-read for all who have loved or love Akashvani

Remembering Akashvani
By Jawhar Sircar
Chief Executive Officer,Prasar Bharati

Few people may be aware that United Nations has declared  13th of February as World Radio Day, because the resolution is just two years
old. It was on this day in 1946 that the United Nations Radio was
and though belated, the humble radio has finally been given
its pride of place. It helped connect billions through very affordable
receivers and can, therefore, claim to be prime ‘democratiser’ of
infotainment in the modern world. What began in the early part of the
nineteenth century with physicists like Faraday and Maxwell working on
exciting theories and experiments in electro-magnetic waves reached its
peak when Hertz (remember ‘mega-hertz’?), Branly, Tesla, de Mousa,
Braun and other pioneers demonstrated that ‘wireless telegraphy’ was
actually feasible. In November 1894, our own Jagadish Chandra Bose
literally ‘rang a bell’ in Calcutta without any connecting wire, while six
months later, on 7th of May 1895 (Russia’s ‘Radio Day’), Alexander
Popov displayed the first ‘radio set’.
But it was Marconi who obtained the first patent in March 1897
and immediately set up his British Marconi Company and also the first
radio station in the world, on the Isle of Wight. This Italian would move
fast and far in life, and in 1909 he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics,
with Karl Braun. But it was San Jose, California, that showed the world
that it was destined to become the ‘Silicon Valley’, when that very year,
Charles Herrold constructed the first really operational radio station. As a
farmer’s son, he was familiar with ‘broad-casting’, i.e., the scattering of
seeds by hand, and he gave us this term to tele-communications. Radios
would soon became the lifeline for ships out on the seas, more so during
distress, and as expected, it was developed in the First World War to
communicate with troops on the battle-front.
As soon as the war ended, civilian use picked up and in August
1920, a station in Argentina began regular entertainment broadcasts,
Detroit, Michigan issued the first known news broadcast. With typical
American business sense, KDKA in Pittsburgh went on the air on
November 2, 1920, with the Presidential election results, heralding in
commercial broadcasting. Several broadcasters in the USA followed, but
the BBC would take two more years to start its first broadcast: on 14th
November, 1922. In typical governmental style, the Postmaster General
took some months to sign the licence, but BBC had already embarked on
its mission and had started spreading its services throughout Britain.
The sudden newspaper strike of 1926 gave it unprecedented popularity
as the sole medium available, and the radio had finally arrived.
  India did not lag behind, and even as the BBC picked up speed,

Bombay started its own Radio Club in 1923, while the Presidency Club of
Madras also set up its own radio facility in 1924. The early adventures
covered tiny circles, but by 1926, some enterprising businessmen got
together in Bombay and formed the Indian Broadcasting Company. The
IBC installed the first proper radio station in Bombay on 23rd
of July
1927 and followed it up with another in Calcutta on 26th
of August. The
number of licensed radio owners was, however, just three thousand and
by March 1930, the company had thus to wind up. By then, the British
Indian government had finally got its act together and followed the
advice of BBC’s founding director general, John Reith, who had been
trying in vain from 1923 to convince successive Viceroys on the merits of
public service broadcasting. The Crown quickly took over the sick
company’s assets and on April Fools’ Day of 1930, the Indian State
Broadcasting Service (ISBS) was formed. It parent department,
Industries and Labour, tried to offset the costs of the new service by
increasing duty on receiver sets.
 In December 1932, BBC’s Empire Service was extended to India,
but matters would greatly improve when Reith sent Lionel Fielden to
assume charge in August 1935, of the newly-created office, Controller of
Broadcasting. Described as “brilliant but impetuous….very highly
creative” and someone the “system looks on with disfavour”, Fielden
proved these epithets as he went about his job like a man possessed. By
January 1936, he gave Delhi its radio station, at Kingsway Camp:
ruffling many feathers as he went about in his brusque ‘must do’ style.
“I quarrel frightfully with all the Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries”, he
bemoaned to Lord Keith, “and I don’t see how I can do anything else”.
The establishment wanted a bland, officious media, but Fielding tried
hard to air the voice of India, as he heard it. When he invited a noted
critic of the Raj, Verrier Elwin, to speak on the radio on (yes, on) Empire
Day, he won strong enemies but several friends among Indians. On the
8th of June of that year, the ISBS was re-named ‘All India Radio’, Tagore
re-christened it as Akashvani, the voice that comes over from the skies,
through a poem that was penned in 1938, for the inauguration of
Calcutta’s Short Wave service.
Within a year, the Second World War broke out and Britain had to
act fast in India as Nazi propaganda was reaching over the Short Wave
Radio. News bulletins in India had already been centralised and even the
regional services were given their ‘ready scripts’ from Delhi: a practice
that continues till today. Their daily number was now hiked to 27. We
may recall an interesting episode when a ‘Congress Radio’ was set up on
3rd September 1942, just a few days after the Quit India Movement. It
claimed to be from “somewhere in India” and played quite a cat and
mouse game with the police, as the portable radio station shifted locations.
But on the 11th November,
the young group of freedom fighters
were caught in their act and the Police Commissioner of Bombay
squarely accused Ram Manohar Lohia of being the mastermind.
As British left the shores of India, AIR had only 6 stations
covering four metros and Lucknow along with Tiruchirapally, while the
Princely States of Mysore, Travancore, Hyderabad and Aurangabad had
four, of their own. There were just two and a half lakh receiver sets for
a population that exceeded 325 million. This would soon change, as
Nehru made radio one of his priorities for uniting the new India that
Churchill predicted would “soon breakdown under its own anarchy”. By
1961, the number of radio stations trebled and by 1981, nearly a
hundred centres catered to an estimated 90 million radio receivers.
There are 413 stations today, of which 218 are studios that originate
programmes: varying from just a few hours a day to 24x7. In addition,
195 relay centres carry different broadcasts: mainstream Akashvani,
Vividh Bharati, FM Rainbow or Gold and local multi-purpose Radio
stations. Though Short Wave is on its way out and Medium Wave
appears to be stagnating, it is FM that rules the wave and 391 of AIR’s
587 transmitters are FM, with more being added every month. It can be
heard quite clearly on mobile handsets, that will soon hit the billion
mark, but FM’s range is quite limited.
Among the most remarkable achievements of AIR was its Vividh
Bharati service which began in October 1957, i.e., five years after Radio
Ceylon had started and had managed to garner a huge following of
Hindi film song lovers across the sub-continent: all because AIR was
stopped by the then I&B Minister, Dr BV Keskar. He promoted classical
music, which captivated an unparalleled number of enthusiasts, but he
also banned “cheap and vulgar” filmi songs over Akashvani. Vividh
Bharati could, however, overtake Radio Ceylon within just a few years,
and, in the process, it helped unite India. Most Indians submerged their
inherited ‘differences’ of language, religion or region, in favour of an
emerging pan-Indian, supra-national identity. Despite the protests from
intellectuals, there is no denial that Hindi film songs became the ‘link
culture’ and is the shared sentimental heritage of not only the masses,
but even of upper echelons. For several decades before the cheap tape-cas it was Akashvani’s Vividh Bharati that not only
captivated Indians but released it from the confines of only the few who
could afford movie tickets or could possess expensive gramophones. To
the man in street, Akashvani stood for filmi geet and sombre news bulletins.
But AIR is or was more than that: it had radio plays, feature
shows, radio talks, large doses of classical music, quiz and poetry
competitions and school based programmes, as well as a very rich
archives that is yet to be tapped fully. The agricultural revolution in
India owes an enormous debt to the broadcasts of AIR, and also DD,
before and after it was delinked from AIR in April 1976. AIR also picked
up ‘rural broadcasting’ from where ‘community listening’ had started
before Independence, and strengthened it with what the farmer needed:
weather reports, market prices, agricultural tips, animal husbandry,
health and hygiene. By 1960, the number of community sets had
reached 50,000 and in the late 1960’s, the problem of power and
batteries that valve-based radios had faced would be over, as the
transistor revolution transformed India.
 The two wars in the 1960s provided Akashvani a unique
opportunity to galvanise the nation as never before. The India that
appeared fragmented in 1947, with fourteen distinct provinces of the
British and 565 Princely States, stood like a rock in 1962: behind her
soldiers fighting on icy high altitudes. Vividh Bharati started its Jayamala
programme to cheer the armed forces, with Nargis, Lata, Asha, Mukesh,
Naushad, Manna Dey and the who’s who of the film world leading it.
Then rolled out other unforgettable programmes, like Inspector Eagle,
the Bourn-vita Quiz Contest, Filmi Mukadama, Antakshari, Man Chahe
Geet, Sangeet Sarita, Chhaya Geet, et al.
 We may also remember that All India Radio actually lived up to its
name, for it never discriminated against singers and artistes like Ghulam
Ali, Mehdi Hasan, Nusrat and Rahat Fateh Ali, Mohsin Khan, Mira,
Monalisa, Shafqat Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, Adnan Sami and others who
were Pakistanis. Its radio waves united souls in music and a shared
history that the politics of a ‘Two Nation theory’ had rendered asunder.

*Edited article was published in Indian Express, dated 13 Feb 2014 with the title
 “Riding the waves, a shared history”.

This article has been updated with changes in Data till May,2014
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