A brief history of radio on World Radio Day
Today is 13th February, a day which is annually observed as World Radio Day. It was proclaimed on 3rd November 2011 by UNESCO's 36th General Conference. A day dedicated to celebrating the distance of radio and its unique power to reach millions across every corner of the globe even in this digital age. This is the seventh edition of World Radio Day and this year's theme is ‘Radio and Sports’.
The idea of radio first originated with scientists experimenting in the field of wireless telegraphy. In 1864, James Clerk Maxwell first showed in a theoretical and mathematical form that electromagnetic waves could propagate through free space. However, the first intentional transmission of a signal through electromagnetic waves was performed by David Edward Hughes in around 1880’s. In 1888, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was finally able to conclusively prove such transmission in an experiment confirming Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism.
It almost took 20 years for the term "radio" to be universally adopted. Meanwhile, several scientists and inventors such as John Perry, Frederick Thomas Trouton, Alexander Trotter, Amos Dolbear, Sir Oliver Lodge, Reginald Fessenden and Alexander Popov experimented with wireless transmission. Finally, the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi was the first one to build the complete and commercially successful wireless telegraphy system based in the 1980s. He successfully demonstrated the application of radio in the military and marine communications. Moreover, he also started a company that developed and propagated radio communication services and equipment.
Back in India, Indian State Broadcasting Service started on 1st April 1930 on an experimental basis for two years. On 8th June 1936, the ISBS was renamed All India Radio. When India became independent in 1947, the AIR network had only six stations with a total of 275,000 radio in India. On 3rd October 1957, the Vividh Bharati Service was launched, while FM broadcasting began on 23rd July 1977 in Chennai.
However, radio struggles to survive in the digital age today. A recent Times of India report stated that at a time when social media has gained prominence, community radios in the city struggle to stay relevant to the listeners anymore. However, community radio practitioner R Sreedher was quoted by The Hindu saying, “Radio is reinventing itself in the digital platform. It now needn’t be owned by anyone, and can be crowd-sourced.”
In a recent interview with Deccan Chronicle, cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle said that radio commentary has died a slow death in India. “When we had started, it was at its peak but now it has become worse in India. The cause of the downfall was due to the apathy of the people involved. With the advent of latest technologies, people thought radio and the print medium would vanish, but where print still has a vast readership, the radio has failed to sustain. If people would have wanted to keep it alive, then they could have easily done it, reinventing it with every change. Other countries like England, Australia and New Zealand have a thriving radio commentary culture,” he said.
Now, this downfall is not desirable. UNESCO suggests some ideas to celebrate World Radio Day so that it still stays relevant in our lives.
- Put women sports broadcasters' front and center to show that gender is irrelevant to the quality commentary.
- Create a feature story/ radio documentary that highlights an effective sport for peace and development initiative in your area.
- Curate an online and on-air show with momentous sporting moments from archives.
- Engage your networks and partners.
- Get in touch with radio stations across your region or around the world to organise a radio relay, where you conduct a joint programme or broadcast each other's content.