Five Interesting Facts about India’s First Radio Station

The legacy of All India Radio whose origin is traced to the colonial rule in India 

All India Radio (AIR) started its first broadcast in 1923 via two private stations, Radio Club of Bombay and Calcutta Radio Club. Radio broadcasting was streamlined in 1927. Lionel Fielden became the first controller of broadcasting in India before government took over AIR in 1936.

Bankruptcy: Indian Broadcast Company (IBC) went bankrupt in 1930 and was liquidated. Two transmitters went to the Government of India and the Indian State Broadcasting Corporation was formed on an experimental basis. Once the government took over, the programmes were more in sync with the audiences’ requirements.

Diversity: One of the reasons why radio penetrated deep into the nooks and crannies of India where even electricity could not was language versatility. AIR has over 415 radio stations in 23 languages and 146 dialects which seek to reach out to 99% of India’s population.

Guevera in AIR office: KP Bhanumathy who refers to herself as an “accidental journalist” had interviewed eminent dignitaries between 1950 and 1960. Her brief encounter with Che Guevera, who was bivouacking in Ashoka Hotel, Delhi, had fetched an interview with the Cuban revolutionary in the AIR office.Today, archaic photographs of the Guevera in AIR office serve as the window to lost time.

Doordarshan: In 1959, TV Broadcasting commenced in Delhi as an integral part of AIR only to be split off from its radio counterpart and emerge as Doordarshan in 1976. The five-minute news bulletin that Doordarshan launched in 1965 had Pratima Puri as its first newsreader. When DD formed a separate entity, National Institute of Design was commissioned with the task of designing its signature montage.

History behind AIR’s Tune:  Walter Kaufmann composed the iconic AIR tune in 1936 based on the raag Shivaranjini. Kaufmann, a Jewish refugee who had fled to India, had studied in-depth Indian music and published the popular titles like Musical Notations of the Orient: Notational Systems of Continental, East, South and Central Asia. Kaufmann’s genius lied in infusing Western elements in Eastern music.

Radio Journalism: AIR’s fierce journalistic contribution during the liberation of East Bengal (Bangladesh) is today remembered with Surojit Sen, Chief Newsreader at AIR, and his live documentary from Bangladesh. Sen’s remarkable radio journalism was a hallmark of AIR credibility as a news portal to which Indians tuned in day and night during the harrowing political upheavals. Sen, who would later become a globetrotter, had undoubtedly snowballed AIR’s popularity for flawless reporting at major intersections of historical significance.

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