When I was young
I’d listen to the radio
Waitin’ for my favorite songs
When they played I’d sing along
It made me smile
Today, the times have changed. Tastes have evolved, entertainment has been redefined, but radio has managed to retain its old charm while adapting to a new world. Having undergone significant changes over the years, the medium continues to resonate with the audience like it always has.
On the occasion of World Radio Day, Soulveda met seasoned radio professionals–Seetal Iyer, Jonzie Kurian, Darius Sunawala and Prashant Vasudevan. They spoke at length about radio’s evolution in India, how content is still the driving factor, and the importance of interaction in keeping the medium alive. Excerpts from the edited conversation:
Radio has evolved from being the voice of the state to being the pulse of society. Do you agree?
Seetal Iyer: Back in the day, the government had the infrastructure to disseminate content and had control over the medium. It is not to say that the content wasn’t informative or did not transform lives. These programmes were popular, socially relevant, and of great value and service. Then it was AM, a pan-national coverage. Now it is FM, a regional medium. Today, they have tailored the content to what you want to listen to. Probably, the variation in content is giving a perception that it is more useful and valuable.
Jonzie Kurian: In India, we had no private radio stations, hence a state-run radio station naturally became the voice of the state. When private stations were introduced, they got an opportunity to become the voice of society. When a radio station appeals to a certain audience, then it becomes imperative for it to echo the voice of its audience (hence the society).
Darius Sunawala: There are government-run radio stations, private stations, community stations and narrow casters. They cannot be clubbed together to say radio is the voice of society, as they each have a definite principle behind them. Government-funded radio is the voice of the state. Private stations make revenue and end up being mass entertainment stations.
Prashant Vasudevan: I think the shift was waiting to happen. And it happened when the government gave permission for private channels. But I still think radio is the voice of the state. It is still curbed in a way where you can’t voice a lot of opinions. It is more of an entertainment channel. This whole shift from being the voice of the state to voice of society was a reaction to what was happening in society.
“In the good old days of All India Radio, listeners used to write in. Then we moved on to phone calls and then SMS. Today, people are interacting with the station through mobile apps and social media.”