| 20 Apr 2024
Worldspace listeners want music to play on

MUMBAI: The news of Worldspace Radio shutting down has shocked its subscribers in India, a country that housed 95 per cent of its subscription base. Music lovers are aggrieved at the abrupt termination of the music service from 31 December.

It is the loss of music that the users are upset about most, over the monetary damages they will have to bear.

Says a Worldspace regular, "It was the only thing that kept the music alive to the best of quality and diversity. It really feels strange and profoundly sad to refer to Worldspace in the past tense."

"Different people have different tastes in music  It was only Worldspace that caters to all of them. Shruti, Orbit rock, Farishta, Jhankar, Bob etc. You tell me your liking and I will tell you the channel on Worldspace. If they have such good content, how can they close down? How can there be nobody to buy them out?" questions Shanti Rajesh, who has started a group on social networking site Facebook called Keep World Space India Alive. The advocacy group already has more than 380 members  campaigning to keep Worldspace operations alive in India.

"Bob, the alternative rock channel, and Riff, the jazz channel, were amongst my favourites. The number of bands I came to love through these channels, I cannot count, but I'm sure there are quite a few. I find all of the usual radio stations here in Bangalore to be nowhere in terms of the quality of music played - it's the usual Hindi Bollywood soundtracks all the time. I really hope it all gets sorted out and Worldspace is back as soon as possible," says an anonymous fan whose only source of world music is being snatched away.

Ramya Krishnamurty from Bangalore writes on her blog, telling the world about her grief. "When my Worldspace receiver will crackle no more two days from now, an inanimate but inseparable partner over the last nine years will suddenly vanish from my life. I will become a Worldspace widow. It is a loss difficult to explain, even more difficult for those unaware of the phenomenon to understand what it means," she says.

With the lack of niche music on private FM radio stations as well as the state owned All India Radio, music afficonados have no other source to tune into international or even regional music any more.

"Worldspace has become such an integral part of my life, that I just don't know what I shall do without it. I am sure there are several other people, who share the same feelings. Why can't anyone salvage the company and in turn, save the musical soul of so many Indians who have tasted the magic of Worldspace, and wish that it continues to nourish them," says a writer.

"Worldspace is the best answer to true radio lovers like me. I was hoping to get Worldspace soon in my car, is there really no way to make it stay?" laments another mourner on the Net.

"I have never come across any Worldspace user who has not got a great opinion for the company. All of us are shocked with the decision of the company pulling out of India. But, why is the company not listening to the plea of its loyalists? Sure, financial hurdles can be overcome. I'm sure addicted subscribers wouldn't mind paying a little more or even some advertising," says Neena Dayal, on Facebook.

Apart from individual consumption of music, Worldspace receivers were even installed in offices, restaurants and other commercial places. Says an official at Limelight, a brand and event managment company, "We at limelight have a Worldspace receiver at two of our offices. So we hope people are going to go out and buy Worldspace. Perhaps that is the only way to keep Worldspace India alive."

Music over money

Interestingly, the proposed refund of subscription fee is not something that is hovering on the minds of subscribers who are more concerned about the revival of India operations  A majority of users want the revival of Worldspace rather than the refunds. In fact, they are even ready to shell out a larger amount of money to keep the operations running 

"We, who subscribe to Worldspace in India, would be lost without it. With such a loyal and growing client base, it should be an opportunity for some entrepreneur. Most of us would be willing to shell out more. Just keep the service going," said Udaya Bose, another fan, on Facebook.

Says  Marathi music composer Ajay Naik, "The monetary loss is negligible compared to the loss that music will suffer."

"Please don't shut down the India operations of Worldspace, it's the only radio station which pays tribute and keeps us reminded of the finest and best music directors, artistes, composers etc. of Indian and world music. I am willing to pay extra, but can't afford to lose this wonderful source of relaxation and entertainment," writes in another ardent Worldspace user Varsha.

A few users have however been fuming over the sudden closure of the sattalite radio. "I just renewed my subscription for a year and upgraded the receiver (which is not even installed yet) and they are shutting it off ! Why did they continue to sell their subscriptions and receivers if they were going to turn it off ?," Bala Sugavanam from Chennai expresses his displeasure.

Says an irritated Dirk W Gastmans,  "Worldspace  was totally out of touch with its listeners in India! I got my first JVC receiver in May 2001. In those days, there were good channels like Oyeme and WorldZone. They got discontinued and channels like Punchline took their place. Pray please explain to me what improvement was there in stopping a channel that was dedicated to playing music from around the world and inserting one with non-stop US related humour that is of no interest whatsoever to the Indian listener?"

"Why in the eight years I was a subscriber the only time WS India got interested in me was when it was time to renew the yearly subscription. There was never any call or such asking about listener feedback and experience, " he further questions.

Regional Music- where do we go now??

With nine stations which catered to the regional tastebuds, Worldspace was the only hub where regional music flourished.

Ajay Naik, who was one of the first few who bought Worldspace when the service was launched in Bangalore, says, "The shutting down of Worldspace is a loss to music which is intangible. Surabhi Channel of Worldspace was the only Channel to play non stop Marathi music and most important, it featured all the songs created  by  young Marathi composers. No radio channel apart from "Vividh bharati" plays Marathi songs. It is a big loss for regional music."

Says another user, "My wife cherishes the Worldspace Carnatic music channel which is the the only one of it's kind . Save Worldspace for us."

"Is there not a way an industrialist or a philanthropist in Chennai or Bangaluru which are citadels of carnatic music, can take heart and try to take over Worldspace operations in India? Moreover, spiritual leaders like Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji have their own channels in the Worldspace bouquet. It is left to these well meaning individuals, corporates and spiritual leaders to continue the glory of the pristine quality of Worldspace music. We may even concede ground and accept a few ads. But let the music flow," rues Srinivasan Vaidyanathan.

Around 300 employees in the Worldspace India office, in Bangalore, have lost their jobs due to the closure. Also, the receiver sets with the existing Worldspace subscribers would now go waste. The subscription money paid by the users will also not be returned unless one approaches the bankruptcy court.

Says a Worldspace employee on Facebook, "This entire decision came as a rude Christmas shock to all of us and yet we continued programming the stations to our best abilities to make sure that quality programming was being broadcast for as long as the network will remain on-air."

One can only hope that the new year will bring better tidings for all Worldspace lovers in the country.