All India Radio: 415 Stations, 23 Languages, 146 Dialects and counting

In 1936, the name All India Radio was coined and earlier it used to be referred as the Indian State Broadcasting Service

Akashvani Bhavan, Kolkata. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

August 24, 2016: President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday, August 23 launched the “Akashvani Maitree” Channel at a function organised at Raj Bhawan in Kolkata. The channel that was launched is a unique venture of All India Radio and is aimed at strengthening ties between India and Bangladesh.

Whole of Bangladesh and most of South East Asia will be covered through this channel. Apart from that, All India Radio has also come up with a multimedia website in Bangla and it can be easily accessible through live streaming, text, and video. Apart from listeners in Bangladesh, it will also cater to Bengali Diaspora across the globe, reported IANS.

The progress of AIR reminds us of Walter Kaufmann, the man who composed the signature AIR tune in 1936. Walter was a Jewish refugee who found haven in India against the torture inflicted by Nazis on Jews. 1936 was also the year in which the name All India Radio coined, it used to be earlier referred as the Indian State Broadcasting Service. Since then the name was changed one more time to ‘Aakashwani’, which has been AIR’s official name since from 1956.

When India became Independent, it was in a dire need of a new language, a language that integrated the dialect of the people speaking different mother tongues. After all, India was a diverse nation that housed people of different communities speaking different languages. Ameen Sayani son of Kulsum Sayani, an 84-year-old woman who once played a significant role in the freedom movement, talks about the conversation she had with Mahatma Gandhi. “He said he wanted Hindustani — a blend of Hindi and Urdu, with no difficult words — to become the lingua franca of India. After Independence, it was a matter of pride to speak in Hindustani. More so, if you did it on AIR,” hence Hindustani was the language chosen.

Sayani was a veteran radio broadcaster and she joined in 1951. During her tenure, she tried popularizing songs from popular movies over Indian classical. This kind of music termed as ‘erotic and vulgar’ by then I&B minister who went ahead and put a ban on film music. It was then that Aruna Asaf Aliji came up to Sayani and said that she needed to do popular shows on AIR. When Sayani exclaimed that her hands were tied, Aruna spoke to Pt Nehru about this. Vividh Bharti, the commercial broadcast service of AIR, began in 1957 and Hindi film music returned to AIR.

All India Radio played a significant hand in promoting numerous arenas post-Indian Independence-

  • Most of the AIR audiences were people who were called the agrarian or the farmers. AIR was their only medium to promote agriculture since most of them were uneducated and lacked the skills to read or write. “We were talking directly to the farmers about modernisation, hybrid seeds etc. There were special agricultural advisory committees set up for the farmers. Which is why AIR played a big role in Green Revolution,” says F Sheheryar, director-general, All India Radio.
  • The chosen language, Hindustani was popularized through the radio. It had a definite influence on the language. This was the first mass medium and the nation began speaking like AIR. But also, there was some resistance from Tamil Nadu, who rejected Hindi in their schools and on radio,” says lyricist Swanand Kirkire.
  • Cricket owes its major chunk of popularity in India to AIR. Radio is where the cricket commentary started. “Initially, we wondered about the translation of cricket terms in Hindi. But the ball became ‘gend’ while googly remained, well, googly,” says BN Goel, former director of programme personnel, AIR.

Apart from that, PM Narendra Modi also appreciates the reach and importance of AIR. His periodic talk on the radio speaks volumes about his belief on how important is radio broadcasting as a medium.

– prepared by NewsGram team