Before the fast-paced digital age crept in on us, there were the 'golden days' of television and radio that, perhaps, we only faintly remember as of today. Most of us, though, recollect the low-hum and the crackling static of the radio that fueled our childhood days. Whether it was catching the novel Bollywood track that your friends mentioned in school, or getting an insight into the news from around the world — radio transistors were a crucial part of the Indian household back in the day. However, it wasn't long before television as a medium overtook it, and soon before we knew it, we were moving towards a digital revolution (or should we say: e-volution!).
Right from our pre-independence days, radio has flourished and thrived through some of the darkest eras. Every year, February 13 celebrates what is otherwise a humble form of media and this year the theme revolves around 'New World, New Radio'. According to UNESCO, the theme is further divided into three sub-themes — Evolution, Innovation, and Connection.
The 'golden days' of radio
The history of radio in India can be traced back to the early 1929s when the Radio Club of Bombay aired its first program for the masses. AIR is one of the largest broadcasters today that caters to over 23 languages, 146 dialects, and has 99 per cent population coverage with 18 FM channels! And despite being referred to as television's 'poor cousin' for years, the radio finally had its moment after de-linking itself from Doordarshan in 1976. Later, it took off on its own under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Are we moving towards an audio-only future?
Today, the medium has come to a full-circle with podcasts slowly taking over the industry. Several podcasters found their businesses not only surviving but growing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The industry which saw brighter days before the pandemic is also returning to normalcy at a slow pace.
Apart from podcasts, we've also been witnessing numerous platforms endorse more audio-only features that are catering to all sorts of demographics. A more recent example can be observed with Clubhouse, an ios-only audio-based app that allows users to join virtual 'rooms' and participate in seminars.
With the emergence of streaming music apps and websites, the radio may have been out of sight — but never out of mind. Spotify, the popular music-streaming app, too, has allowed users to stream a 'radio' based on similar song-choices.
A recent report by iphonesoftpr.com also mentions how Netflix is coming up with an 'audio-only' streaming feature for its users.
While the future may appear bleak for radio as a medium, numerous radio-based apps are popping up on Android and iOS both for nostalgic users. Earlier, most of the radio consumption happened during commutes. However, today the long-drives have been replaced with the flicker of computer screens during the 'work-from-home' stints. Radio today remains a sought after platform, whether it is in the form of podcast or live-streaming websites. Perhaps it is the resilience and the impact — or the far-reaching roots of the medium — that continue to thrive despite the onset of digitalisation!