Radio Broadcasting was pioneered in India by the Madras Presidency Club Radio in 1924. The Club worked a broadcasting service for three years, but owing to financial difficulties gave it up in 1927.
In the same year (1927) some enterprising businessmen in Bombay started the Indian Broadcasting Company with stations at Bombay and Calcutta. This company failed in 1930, in 1932 the Government of India took over broadcasting. A separate department known as Indian Broadcasting Service was opened.
The Service was later designated 'All India Radio' (AIR) and was placed under a separate Ministry-the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The AIR is controlled by a Director General, who is assisted by several Deputy Directors and a Chief Engineer.
Broadcasting, in its significance, reach and impact, constitutes the most powerful medium of mass communication in India. Its importance, as a medium of information and education is particularly great in a vast and developing country like India where the reach of the printed word is not very wide or deep. While the total circulation of all the newspapers in India, including both English and Indian language papers, is around 8 million, there are, according to a recent estimate, nearly 400 million (out of a total population of 625 million) potential listeners to All India Radio.
Broadcasting in India is a national service, developed and operated by the Government of India. All India Radio (also known as Akashvani) operates this service, over a network of broadcasting stations located ail over the country.
As a national service, catering to the complex needs of a vast country. All India Radio seeks to represent in its national and regional programmes, the attitudes, aspirations and attainments of all Indian people and attempts to reflect, as fully and faithfully as possible, the richness of the Indian scene and the reach of the Indian mind.
Starting with 6 broadcasting stations in 1947, the AIR today has a network of 82 broadcasting stations. The 82 radio stations, grouped into five zones, are the following: North Zone: Ajmer, Allahabad, Aligarh, Bikancr, Delhi, Gorakhpur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jullundur, Lucknow, Mathura, Rampur, Simla, Udaipur and Varanasi: East Zone: Agartala, Aizawl, Bhagalpur, Calcutta, Cuttack, Dibrugarh. Gauhati, Imphal, Jeypore, Kohima, Kurseong, Ranchi, Pasighat, Patna, Sambalpur, Shillong, Silchar, Siliguri, Tawang and Tezu ; West Zone : Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Bhuj, Bombay, Gwalior, Indore. Jabalpur, Nagpur, Panaji, Parbani, Pune, Raipur, Rajkot and Sangli; South Zone: Alleppey, Bangalore, Bhadravati, Calicut, Coimbatore, Cuddapah, Dharwar; Gulbarga, Hyderabad, Madras, Mysore, Pondicherry, Port Blair, Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli, Trichur, Trivandrum. Vijayawada and Vishakhapatnam; and Kashmir Zone: Jammu, Leh and Srinagar.
In addition, there are three auxiliary studio centers at Vado- dara, Darbhanga and Shantiniketan and two Vividh Bharati/commercial centers, one at Chandigarh and the other at Kanpur. These cover all the important cultural and linguistic regions of the country.
The expansion of the broadcasting facility remained limited till independence. In 1947 there were only six radio stations in the country. Today there are as many as 82 AIR stations. With two more stations that will start working soon, India's broadcasting network would cover 89 per cent of the population.
Till the end of 1976 radio licenses had reached a colossal figure of nearly 1.74 crores, which fetched revenue of Rs. 23.51 crores. Today the radio network has spread to the remote corners of India. It is now possible to bring sense of unity not only political but also cultural among the diverse traditions that enrich our land.
AIR's programme pattern combines three main elements: a national channel providing programmes of countrywide interest and significance, a zonal service from each of the four metropolitan centers (Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras); and regional services from individual stations each catering to the needs and interests of its respective area.
The principal ingredients of AIR's programme output are Music, Spoken Word, Dramas, Features. News and Current Affairs, Commentaries and Discussion, Vividh Bharati and its Commercial Service, Farm and Home Broadcasts, Programmes for Special Audiences (like Youth, Women, Children, Industrial Workers and Tribal Population), and Programmes for Overseas Listeners broadcast in the External Services.
To enable AIR to reach all sections of the Indian people, its programmes in the Home Service are broadcast in 20 principal languages. In addition, the External Services of AIR beam their programmes to listeners all over the world in 24 languages.
The News Services Division of AIR through its central and regional news bulletins and its current affairs, commentaries and discussions, provides accurate, objective, speedy and comprehensive coverage of news to listeners at home and abroad.
AIR now broadcasts a total of 239 news bulletins a day, with duration of 32 hours 17 minutes. Of these, 67 are Central bulletins broadcast from Delhi in 19 languages, with a daily duration of 10 hours 3 minutes; 57 external bulletins (from Delhi) broadcast in 24 languages for a duration of 7 hours 14 minutes and 15 regional bulletins from 34 regional centers (including the Prade- shik desk in Delhi) broadcast in 22 languages and 34 tribal dialects with a total duration of 15 hours every day.
The major sources of news for AIR are its correspondents at home and abroad, the news agencies and the monitoring services, AIR has a total of 206 correspondents. Of these, 111 are part-time.
AIR made its first broadcast to listeners outside India on October I, 1939. Today the External Services of AIR broadcast in 25 languages for about 50 hours daily round-the-clock, reaching listeners in widely scattered areas of the world.
A self-contained service of popular entertainment, known as Vividh Bharati was started in October 1957 to meet the growing demand for popular music and light features.
Commercial advertising was introduced on AIR in November, 1967, from the Bombay-Nagpur channel of Vividh-Bharati on an experimental basis. It was gradually extended to Calcutta (1968); Delhi and Madras-Tiruchirapalli (1969); Chandigarh-Jullundur- Bangalore, Dharwar, Ahmedabad-Rajkot, Kanpur-Lucknow-Allahabad (1970), Hyderabad-Vijayawada (1971) and Bhopal, Indore, Cuttack, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Patna, Ranchi and Trivandrum (1975). Advertisements are accepted in any language as tape-recorded 'spots' of 15 seconds or 30 seconds duration.
Vividh Bharati, an alternative national service of All India Radio, now forms a part of the Central Sales Unit of the Commercial Broadcasting Service. It has also started originating programmes.
The total duration of broadcasts of the Vividh Bharati service is now 12 hours 45 minutes, on week days and 13 hours 20 minutes on Sundays and holidays. The network covers 29 full-fledged centers and seven partial centers. Vividh Bharati is also radiated through two powerful short-wave transmitters from Delhi, Bombay and Madras.
There has been a steady rise in the gross revenue earned by the commercial services. It went up from Rs. 2.96 crores in 1970-71 to Rs.6.25 crores in 1975-76 and Rs. 6.50 crores approximately in 1976-77. Since inception and till March 1977 AIR had earned total gross revenue of about Rs. 38.21 crores from its commercial services.
Started in July 1952, the weekly National Programme of Music provides an opportunity to listeners to hear well-known exponents of Hindustani and Karnataka music. It has helped in a better understanding of the two systems prevalent in the North and the South. At suitable intervals, programmes based on recordings of old masters are also featured in this programme.
The medium of the drama is utilised for popularising the Economic Programme. A special series of short plays on various themes including the Economic Programme, Family Planning, Dowry and anti-Casteism are regularly broadcast.
Nearly 4,000 plays are broadcast from the different stations of AIR annually on an average.
The most significant achievement of AIR in the field of Radio drama is its National Programme of Plays. Once a month an outstanding play from one of the main Indian languages is selected and translated into all the other regional languages of the country r id broadcast simultaneously by all stations in their respective regional languages. In the interest of improvement of radio programmes, All India Radio instituted in 1975 the annual Akashvani Awards for plays, features, music, youth programmes etc. This competition was held during the year and prizes were awarded.
The National Programme of Features attempts to mirror the progress made in different spheres of development in the country and to project various aspects of its social and cultural life. The .original broadcast of this feature might be in Hindi or English, but these are invariably translated into all regional languages and presented from the regional stations.
The Special Programmes include programmes for women (once a week) for children (two or three times a week), for the armed forces (daily), for Industrial Workers (4 days in a week), for hill tribes in their own dialects which number around 135 for rural audiences and consist of plays, skits, agriculture and other matters (twice a week) and programmes on Family Planning in all the National languages and in important dialects, as often as possible.
Programmes for the youth in Yuva Vani are broadcast from Calcutta, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jammu, Patna and Srinagar stations. This service provides a forum to the youth between the ages of l5 and 25 years, who present their viewpoint by participating in a wide range of programmes-talks, discussions interviews, plays, features and music. A youth news bulletin is also broadcast by the youth themselves.