ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Retuning All India Radio

We need to collectively reimagine All India Radio as an independent public service broadcaster.

As All India Radio (AIR) enters its platinum jubilee, it is worth reflecting on this national institution of inestimable worth that has fallen on bad times. In spite of the great changes in the Indian radio landscape, AIR remains a force to reckon with, given its 376 stations, its unrivalled coverage of more than 90% of the country, and broadcasts in 23 languages and 146 dialects.

Nonetheless, AIR remains a deeply paradoxical institution. On the one hand, it offers a truly national service that, to borrow from the old Heineken ad, reaches parts of the country other broadcasters don’t. AIR’s sound archives – consisting of both north and south Indian classical music and the spoken word – offer a unique memory of music traditions and styles and a repository of the political history of the nation, including recordings by Tagore, Subhash Chandra Bose, Gandhi, Jinnah and other national figures. The digitisation of these archives at a central level as well as in the regional centres is an ongoing project. On 25 March 2013, for instance, AIR’s Akashvani Sangeet released five CDs of the Hindustani vocalist Pt Mallikarjun Mansur, from its 11,000-hour repository of music that includes 1,000 hours of Carnatic music.

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