Impact of Radio and Television on Indian Audience: Advent of community radio

The industrial and communication revelations have changed the face of our country. Electronic media captured a vast mass in India and gave a phenomenal growth in last decade, leading to a huge impact on socio- cultural understandings. Thus the impact of electronic media, especially radio and television, has to be seen in the background of our tradition and value based social structure.

The Indian television system is one of the most extensive systems in the world. Television was introduced in India in 1959. Television broadcasts started from Delhi in September 1959 as part of All India Radio’s services. The first major expansion of television in India began in 1972, when a second television station was opened in Bombay.

Media consumption captivates long hours each day in the lives of a typical Indian. Television plays a vital role in the life style of the people. It allows people to reassert them on the global stage & have their voices heard rather than viewing these as uncomfortable imposition from outside.

And in a country with a high rate of illiteracy, TV informs and educates even as it entertains. With over 50 million TV sets and 20 million homes linked to cable with direct-to-home telecast round the corner and 99% of the population been reached by All India Radio through its 215 stations spread all-over the country, India is on the threshold of a major infotainment revolution.

Television may be only slightly older than independent India, but its efficacy as a medium far outstrips anything we know. Subsequent to its invention, television has reigned supreme over all the other mediums of mass communication. Considered as a luxury till a couple of decades ago, today it has become a part of every household, be it rich or poor. There are more than 50 round-the-clock television news networks operating in India in 11 different languages most of which came on the scene between 1992 and 2006. The upheavals in the nature of Indian television have been accompanied by a simultaneous expansion in its reach and penetration.

Radio is also an effective medium through which millions of people are able to become unified on the basis that they are common recipients of a particular message. In India, the first radio station was installed in Bombay in 1927, followed by Calcutta and Delhi in 1936. In 1986 India had 86 radio stations. Today over 95% of the country’s population is covered by All India Radio’s broadcast services. As years passed by, the government sponsored All India Radio slowly introduced commercial broadcasts. Today India has quite a large number of commercial channels. For several decades in India, radio has always been having a top – down approach in the sense, the listeners had no choice except to listen to what was broadcast over All India Radio.
The effects of commercialism also couldn’t be underestimated. Today’s children are besieged by manipulative commercial messages day in and day out on television. Companies hire psychologists to help them target children and manipulate them. Also, in terms of programming, television shows are either American, or Indian imitations of them. One of the most prominent examples of this is the phenomenon of MTV and youth culture in urban India.

Consumerism is extremely prominent among this group due to the cultural icons represented through music videos and advertisements, along with their parent’s willingness to support such spending. This seems to hold true as a characteristic of youth culture across the globe, which raises the question of whether this global identity was created to homogenize this particular group.

Television has a major impact on toddlers it influences their viewing habits throughout their lives. Television violence is accompanied by vivid production features; preschoolers are predisposed to seek out and pay attention to violence—particularly cartoon violence.

Another important group that has faced major identity transformations, sparked by the engagement in television is women. In recent years, viewers of Indian film and television have witnessed a shift from portrayals of females as innocent and subordinate in nature, into independent sexual beings. While India’s strong traditional heritage has always been significantly characterized by the traditional roles of women as homemakers and mothers, the portrayal of women on television has challenged this ideal, and therefore cultivated a new perception of womanhood for the Indian woman.

The development efforts taken by radio and television in context of rural India also can’t be overlooked. Some recent experiments in television have successfully helped in transforming lives of the rural. In Chhattisgarh villages Kalyani clubs based on a bi-weekly television programme on health produced by Doordarshan. The programme has inspired the regional women to tackle illness and disease in their villages together. Today, over 10,000 women are using the Kalyani club platform to anchor change in the state.

Rang De Basanti and Lage Raho Munnabhai, the two trend-setting superhit films have one thing in common. They displayed the power of radio, like never before. Today you don’t have to scream about the effectiveness of radio. Television has arrived and radio has not gone. In India, it has been used extensively as a medium of instruction, for imparting education and spreading public awareness among the people.

Community radio has also played a significant role in empowering the marginalized towards effecting the much needed social change in India. In 2008, an “English for Fun” radio programme started by the Bihar government. It teaches spoken English and grammar through 50 songs and simple lessons aired by All India Radio in a 50-minute capsule. As it stands today, India has just made a beginning and a few community radio stations have come up on their own, subject to the rigorous but probably necessary procedures of the licensing authorities.

And despite the government constraints, community radios are bringing in socio-economic changes by focusing on local issues and creating awareness. At Bhanaj village, near Rishikesh, community radio helped in exposing the corruption in local governance. In Gujarat’s Kutch, it addressed gender issues and empowered women who were victims of domestic violence. In Palamau district of Jharkhand, it has helped stop pilferage in mid-day meals for children.

Socially, one major challenge faced by the India today is that it is so motivated by the capital gain from multinationals that it often tries to counterbalance the impact of the western images by enforcing radical Nationalistic themes. The growing popularity of mass media in all parts of India is therefore making way for a homogenized Indian culture, whose cultural identity is becoming ever so fragile.

Any sort of technological advancement has both its pros and cons in the context of social change. Hence, mass media today, in many cities, is seen as a potential threat to indigenous cultural survival and tools of cultural imperialism. With the communication revolution, needs are certainly growing and it is due to mass media and advertisements that the economically dependent third world is now being internally pressured to make shifts that may not be financially possible yet incredibly desirable.