Social Responsibility of Broadcast Media

6 Min
<strong>Social Responsibility of Broadcast Media</strong>

Rattan Saldi*

23rd July is a historic day in the broadcasting history of India. On this day in 1927, the first radio broadcast formally went on air waves from Bombay station with a limited area coverage. There was a great rejoicing all around as the success came after many years of tireless efforts by some businessmen and entrepreneurs to put broadcasting on the map of India on the same page with the United States and Great Britain which had already started broadcasting services, putting out information and entertainment for their people at large.

The British rulers of the day in India who had already tasted the benefit of reaching out to the masses in their own country, felt the need to develop Broadcasting service in India, the country of their subjugation to propagate their programmes and policies.

They allowed setting up of a private entity ‘Indian Broadcasting Company’ by some Indian entrepreneurs, authorizing it to operate two Radio stations at Mumbai and Kolkata. The Company was successful in making its first Radio broadcast in the country on 23rd July 1927 from Mumbai station.

23rd July was later declared as the National Broadcasting Day in India.

It was a great achievement for the country as the plethora of information disseminators we see in abundance around us today was missing at that time and came into existence much later. Newspapers, magazines, hand bills and books were the only medium of information, news and other media needs of the people at that time. Much of the information was carried in rural areas by word of mouth.

Prior to this historic event, some enthusiastically versatile Indian businessmen and industrialists in Mumbai formed a Radio Club in 1923 and tried to bring Broadcasting to life in India imitating the technology in the West but could not succeed. A few months later Kolkata Radio Club came into existence, followed by Madras and Lahore Radio Clubs in the undivided India. All these were Amateur Radio Clubs and could not make any headway in their mission.

After about a month later, following the start of Broadcasting from Mumbai station on 23rd July 1927, the Indian Broadcasting Company successfully launched broadcasting from Kolkata station on 26th August 1927. The company, however, could not continue for long and went into liquidation in March 1930 due to financial crisis. The British rulers again stepped in, took Broadcasting into their own hands as by that time they had well understood the usefulness of reaching out to the masses.

On 1st April 1930, the Government of the day formed “Indian State Broadcasting Service’ which was christened later as All India Radio on 8th June 1936. Along with All India Radio, the name ‘Akashvani’ was adopted in 1956 for the Broadcasting Service.

On 3rd May 2023, Government of India ordered that public broadcaster known as All India Radio and Akashvani be exclusively named as Akashvani in all broadcasts and programmes.

The name All India Radio has been dropped.

Today it is the largest broadcasting network in the world.

India with more than 1.4 billion population, is a multi-lingual country having diversity of cultural ethos, a very wide range of social festivities and lifestyles and gaping disparities in economic wellbeing of its people. When India attained independence in 1947, it had only six Radio stations, namely Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Madras, Lucknow and Tiruchirappalli.

Three Radio Stations Lahore, Peshawar and Dacca (now in Bangladesh) went to Pakistan during partition. At that time All India Radio was accessible to only 11 percent of country’s population and reached just 2.5 percent of its geographical area.

After independence, feeling the necessity for fast delivery of information, knowledge, and the latest developments in the country to the masses, the union government took up the task of expansion of Broadcasting service and put it on a fast track. Today Radio operates at three levels, national, regional, and local.

From six stations at the time of independence, India now is the proud owner of over 470 primary, auxiliary and relaying stations besides FM channels and DTH service. Its Broadcasting service reaches out to more than 92 percent of the country’s geographical area and 98.2 percent of its population. Besides, private Radio channels and FM channels are also operating in the country.

From Broadcasting in only two languages, Hindi and English initially Akashvani is now broadcasting in 23 languages and nearly 180 dialects to reach out to the listeners in the hilly terrain, vast peninsula, coastal areas, inhabitants of India’s islands or the last person in the remotest corner.

Radio is one of the most crucial means of communication, transcending barriers of international borders. It needs only a mobile phone or any other sophisticated listening device or a transistor set to keep one informed 24X7 about political and other developments at home or abroad, innovations in science and technology, health, education and agriculture, including dairy development, fisheries, poultry farming, horticulture etc. The beauty of Radio broadcasting is that one need not leave his other avocations to listen to Radio broadcasts. One can listen to Radio programmes of one’s choice and enjoy the music or entertainment programmes while remaining engaged in daily routine.

Radio Broadcasting is a powerful media to bind the people socially and culturally and becomes a tool in socio-economic development of the country. It educates masses about government policies, programmes and welfare schemes, informs them about traditions and folklore of one region to the other, enthuses nationalism among the people through its broadcasts on national days, carries commentaries on sports of national or regional level to the entire nation and broadcasts Market Mantra programmes giving out information about stock market, volatile shares and other market related information.

India is primarily an agriculture-based economy with more than 64.61 percent of its population is living in villages, according to the latest data. Broadcasting media, Akashvani, Doordarshan, private channels, FM Radio and social media are all engaged in a big way putting out special programmes for the farming community.

Starting with a modest programme ‘Radio Farm Forum’ in 1956 from Pune station of All India Radio with a limited reach for farmers in the nearby areas in Maharashtra state only, today Radio covers the entire stretch of India with structured programmes in agriculture and related subjects like animal husbandry, horticulture, fisheries, credit facilities for farmers and rural banking, daily weather report and crop insurance schemes and other schemes for farmers in case of natural calamities.

Radio puts out specially structured programmes like Radio Rural Forum, Kisan Vani, Chaupal, Radio Bridge and many more for the benefit of the farming community.

Doordarshan is also putting out special programmes for farmers on its national and regional channels in local languages. Its Krishi Darshan Programme which began on 26th January 1967 became very popular. In villages as every household did not have a TV receiving set, for community viewing of Krishi Darshan, folklore and other entertainment programmes, village panchayats used to organize viewing of all such programmes by all and sundry at the Panchayat Bhavan or any other common place.

On 26th May 2015, Doordarshan launched a dedicated channel for the farming community, DD Kisan Channel to bring latest techniques and innovations in agriculture and allied subjects from the lab to field.

Another popular programme of All India Radio and Doordarshan is Prime Minister’s Man ki Baat broadcast and telecast on a Sunday every month. Prime Minister connects with the people at large to listen to their grievances in person and speaks about government’s schemes being carried out for the welfare of the common man. It is the most widely listened to or watched programme in the Broadcasting history of India. It has completed more than one hundred episodes benefitting large sections of the society.

The most crucial role being played by the Broadcasting and telecasting services is during natural calamities like tsunami, floods, earthquakes. They inform the people in advance about the impending disasters, send out warnings to take remedial measures and precautions, put out special bulletins on weather, help rescue teams to reach the exact locations of disaster and inform affected people about relief camps etc.

Broadcasting medium also plays a vital role in the field of education, health, sports, market and entertainment. Special programmes are mounted for the youth and students. During the recent pandemic Covid 19, online classes were conducted by schools and colleges and even final examinations were conducted online to save the students their precious one or two years in their studies to remain within age for various job competitions.

In nutshell, Broadcasting and telecasting media inform, educate and entertain people of all ages, professions, classes and of every group to create awareness among them of latest developments at home and abroad and thus help them create right attitude about country’s social, economic and cultural progress. They help ease the lifestyle of the common man by making him aware of the services and facilities available to him through various schemes and programmes.

A word of caution.

Fake news is in circulation in abundance these days.

One must remain on toes about disinformation campaigns of anti-social and nefarious elements.

Media in general need to check the veracity of every bit of information put out for public consumption.

–* The writer is a veteran broadcaster