New Delhi: Eighty four years after it came into existence, the state-owned All India Radio (AIR) is set to undergo major structural overhaul, ThePrint has learnt.
Prasar Bharati sources told ThePrint that the changes proposed include combining the multiple “region-specific” services to one common regional public service in every state as well as streamlining the production of Vividh Bharati — the commercial entertainment services of AIR — into a nine common language-specific commercial entertainment service.
The plans also include leveraging news and current affairs programmes in English and Hindi aired by AIR’s News Services Division (NSD) for its External Services Division (ESD) and restructuring them to cater to a global audience.
The decisions to “rebrand” AIR services were taken in two meetings held last month and in September. ThePrint has accessed the minutes of the meetings.
The decisions are learnt to be part of an overall measure to rationalise AIR channels to reduce costs and to position itself in the “current competitive market scenario”.
ThePrint contacted Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati for a comment through text message. The report will be updated when he responds.
A senior Prasar Bharati official, however, said this is the initial draft that has been sent to the zonal headquarters for comments.
“The changes would be finalised only after receiving the comments and incorporating the feedback from the zones while making sure all dialects and regional aspirations are duly supported in the services of AIR, ” the official said.
The official added that at present, there are multiple FPCs (Fixed Point Charters) prepared by every station, and more than often there is a duplication.
FPC is the time schedule of the programmes to be aired.
“The idea is to reduce duplication and optimally use the available frequencies by categorising them into public service broadcasting, commercial entertainment apart from news and current affairs,” the official said.
What does the revamp entail?
It was discussed that those transmissions in region specific dialects are not accessible to the entire state.
Based on the observations, it was proposed to have a “common regional public service” in every state and union territory except Jammu and Kashmir and Chandigarh, which will have contributions from the local studios from across the state.
It has been proposed that these common regional public service channels will be managed by the capital station of the respective state.
A second senior Prasar Bharati official said that if implemented, it needs to be seen how information needs for the local population will be met, which can be multifarious such as conveying information during a disaster, agricultural information or even local culture.
Local radio stations have been at the forefront of the successful immunisation and green and white revolutions by taking these messages to grassroots in multiple dialects.
“There is an increased demand for local content in the media and AIR local stations have traditionally catered to the population at the grassroots,” the official said.
“It will be good if, say, a person in Patna can hear a Maithili language transmission,” the official added. “However, people of that specific region, where this dialect transmission was originally aired, should not ideally be deprived of their local language service.”
Other proposed changes
It has also been proposed to rationalise the 43 Vividh Bharati channels — originating from various AIR stations — to nine language specific entertainment services.
The Vividh Bharati National Service originating from Mumbai will be the entertainment service in Hindi language for the entire country and there will be no local variation in districts, as against earlier service in the Hindi-speaking belt.
Moreover, all city and town-specific AIR stations will be redesignated as part of the AIR FM Rainbow network and would be a mix of public service broadcasting from other national and regional services.
Another plan is to replace the World Service content in Hindi and English curated currently by ESD, and source it from News Services Division (NSD) of AIR instead.
The reason cited was to eliminate duplication of content and optimal utilisation of programming resources.
While NSD is mandated to create news content, the present world service bouquet includes cultural and entertainment programmes created by ESD.
NSD has now been directed to enhance its news and current affairs coverage of global events and ensure that bulletins and other programmes to be aired between 11 pm and 6 am are designed keeping in mind the global audience.
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