Friday, October 02, 2015

All India Radio

AIR in New Delhi India stands for All India Radio. You might even have guessed that. But since 1956 it has been officially known as Akashvani, which translates to "Message from the Sky" or "Celestial Announcement."  Not everything in Hindi translates well, and this is translated from Sanskrit. Akashvani is a public radio broadcaster, established back in 1936. The image above is from a postcard. It bears no date, but reads "A.I.R. is situated on the Parliament Street this is one of the largest broadcast houses in the world."

In trying to date this image I have to consult a bit of tumultuous Indian history.  A online history tersely states that when India became independent in 1947, the AIR network had only six stations: New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Lucknow, and Tiruchirappalli. Three radio stations fell inside Pakistan: Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi. For this strange ham-handed moment in radio history we can blame the British.

In the years prior, there were loud calls for self-rule in India and certain members of the Indian National Congress such as Muhammad Ali Jinnah espoused the Two Nation Theory in which the Hindus and Muslims of India would divide the nation somewhat geographically. (The mixed results of this idea always make me think of Israel and Palestine.) regardless, the British went with it, and pulled out their military. To state that many people died needlessly, would be an excruciating understatement.

So, on August 14th 1947 India lost three radio stations and Pakistan gained three. Sadly I've never found out what Pakistan did with them. It was a setback for AIR.  The total number of radio receivers in India at the time is estimated to be about 275,000, the number in Pakistan was unknown.

In the 1800s South Asia was dominated commercially and politically by a number of European trading companies. By about 1820 the British bad become the dominant power, and most historians refer to this as "the Colonial period" with a note of disgust. but following a rebellion in 1857 the British took direct federal control of India from the East India Company. they began introducing a British-style parliamentary system thereafter. In British India, broadcasting began in July 1923 among radio clubs such as the Radio Club of Mumbai. In 1927 the private Indian Broadcasting Company LTD (IBC) was authorized to operate two radio stations; one in Mumbai and another in Calcutta. But the station didn't prosper, it went into liquidation in 1930.

After 50 years of British imposed infrastructure the Nascent Indian government saw the importance of broadcasting as a public service. The government took over broadcasting facilities and launched the Indian State Broadcasting Service (ISBS) on 1 April 1930. In 1936 the ISBS was renamed All India Radio. That postcard had to have been printed between 1936 and 1956. It's a long window but it's all I have. If you are interested in the topic try the book Other Voices by Vinod Pavarala Ha. There are not a lot of books in English on the topic of Radio but this one is fine indeed.