RadioandMusic
| 20 Nov 2019
AIR DG G Jayalal - We don't believe in sensationalising news

All India Radio is older than independent India. The service that began formally in 1936 had a network of six stations by 1947, a rate of growth that the public broadcaster kept up over the decades 

Being the first radio broadcaster of the country had made AIR the leader for many years. However, with stiff competition coming in due to the entry of private broadcasters, AIR appears to be losing steam.

Newly promoted All India Radio director general G Jayalal, in conversation with Anushree Bhattacharyya, talks about how AIR still manages to be at the top despite the competition.

Excerpts:

Would it be wrong to say that AIR has been late in gearing up against the present competition?

One can easily say that AIR has been late in realising about the competition, but this is all due to one reason - AIR has never really been too conscious of the commercial side of running the country's first radio service. It has always been about public service. Nevertheless, now almost every month or year, there is a new technology that enters the radio space and AIR is doing its best to match steps with changing technology and competition.

AIR is available 24 hours on the internet. However is the online venture promoted as well?

We are currently in the process of revamping our website. This will take another six months time for us to design a completely new website with features like podcasts and webcasts. And once we launch the new website, we would be charting out new promotion plans as well 

AIR is also available on direct-to-home service DD Direct. How important is digitalisation for AIR?

The reason behind AIR being made available on DD Direct was to make language channels available all across the country. For example, a Tamilian living in Delhi could listen to AIR's Tamil channels through the DTH service. Though it has taken time to gain listenership, the service is now becoming popular amongst listeners across the country. The Bengali and Tamil channels, in particular, are very much in demand.

Is it not correct that marketing is an area where AIR is lacking and that's why it's taking time for listeners to acknowledge the new services launched by AIR?

Yes, we are aware that there is a need to promote our services and we have even initiated the process by cross promotion of our services in our own network. For example, we are promoting our programmes on DD and vice versa. Also, whenever there is a new launch, we give the details of the new product in our network.

AIR has a treasure trove of archives and two years ago, it had released a few CDs as well. But there has not been any news in recent times. How is AIR planning to use its archive?

All India Radio has about 25000 hours of recordings and has released around 65 CDs till date. And this process has been initiated by AIR completely and will continue in the future, like next month we will be releasing two CDs on Gurbani. Additionally, we have also released classical music CDs like Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia's recordings.

But we are going at a slow pace as making money is not our only intention. And the music CDs have been doing well, especially in markets like Chennai where AIR has been able to make around Rs 1,00,000 in a month just from the sale of the CDs 

How has the last fiscal 2007-08 for AIR been in terms of revenue?

In the age of stiff competition against private broadcasters in the space of radio, All India Radio still manages to stay at the top. In the last fiscal 2007-2008, AIR earned total revenue of Rs 2.83 billion. For this fiscal 2008-09, we have a target which is double of last year's, but I feel if we are able to earn around Rs 3 billion then I would say our job is done 

What happening with Vividh Bharati; is it still the most popular?

Yes, it's one of the most popular services. Everywhere there is demand for Vividh Bharati as it has a national colour in its programming. And whenever required, we launch new programmes. Vividh Bharati is a true representation of national choice and demands when it comes to listening to programmes on radio. Also, there are local stations that share two hours of programming from Vividh Bharati.

How is AIR's regular FM doing vis a vis FM rainbow? Which is the priority for AIR?

FM Rainbow in metros like Bangalore is performing very well and at the same time, the regular FM service is also doing very good in the interiors of the country. So both have their own set of audiences and their own regions where they are liked and listened to. And AIR has given equal focus on the development of both kinds of FM because AIR is a public service broadcaster and cannot escape from its duties. Even in our FM Rainbow services, we make sure that a certain amount of public service messages reach the listeners. For instance, we have opened helpline services for those affected by the Bihar floods 

AIR is the only radio service that is allowed to broadcast news. How much of an edge does this give to AIR over private radio broadcasters?

I would say it gives an edge to the listeners because of AIR's credibility which has been built through decades. We don't believe in sensationalising the news; we present news as matters of fact. As of today, AIR has more than 650 news bulletins going on air every day. So not one listener of AIR is kept deprived of news and yes, it does give AIR that extra edge over other private FM broadcasters.