The resurgence of Radio.

AIR logo. {image courtesy:Wikimedia commons.}

What can be a better way to uplift your mood than good music playing out through the speakers while you focus on your work. No need to touch, swipe or tap frequently, and hence the distraction is reduced to minimal. Radio as a medium of entertainment has been around for just over a hundred years now and with time it has only evolved. A wide variety of music, talk shows, drama, and most important news from around the world can be assumed to be a few utilities of listening to the radio broadcast. Even today, with so much data flowing through the internet, radio is thought of as the primary means to discover new music throughout the world.

My enthusiasm and affection for radio have a personal connection dating back to my childhood when my father used to work in an All India Radio (AIR) station located in Najibabad, a city in the western region of the Uttar Pradesh state in Northern India. As a small child, I used to visit the station quite often, most of the time curious about the equipment located in the studios there. My eyes used to lighten up when the green “ON AIR” sign flashed outside one of these studio doors and I once peeped inside to get a glimpse of how the person inside was speaking. The thought of being heard by millions of people simultaneously while sitting on a chair in that studio used to excite me as a kid. There were eminent people, musicians, experts from agriculture, doctors who used to visit the station frequently for their respective shows. Sometimes my father used to act as a casual announcer there. I got an opportunity of being on-air twice and even sent a question to the President of India thanks to the medium known commonly as radio.

At home, of course, radio was the primary mode of entertainment for a long time even with the television around. We had two radio sets, one owned by my grandmother bought ages ago, in 1985, and the other one bought by my father when he got a job in that radio station in 2001. I bet it was quite common for people in that generation to own a shiny radio set, something like we do with our cell phones now. Our mornings seldom started without listening to the devotional songs followed by the news being broadcast on almost every station of AIR. My grandmother was an expert in tuning these stations at the right time. Sometimes, my father used to tune in to short wavelength, Hindi broadcast station of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) available in our country.

With time though, I have to confess the interest in radio dwindled. Be it the bad quality of broadcast by the All India Radio thanks to redundant technology of transmission, the arrival of modern high-frequency private FM channels, or the intrusion of television initially and internet after some time in every aspect of our entertainment, radio has taken a backseat in recent times especially in the cities. In rural areas, the radio is still a dominant means of communication and entertainment. The urban youth of the country slowly distanced itself from the radio and it is regarded as old man’s entertainment now. All India Radio has neglected this problem for a long time which can be understood by looking at the dusty offices, passionless staff members, and a nonfunctional bureaucracy. Sadly, this has been the case with all government-owned entities be it the national carrier Air India or the largest telecom company a few years back: BSNL. Like the other entities, here too, within a few years, the airwaves of the private FM channels and the thousands of private television channels overwhelmed theirs.

But with the arrival of the internet, I think a watershed moment has arrived in the world of radio broadcast. It has got a new life through the medium and in a way people would laugh at 15 years ago! Long gone are the days when we needed dedicated tuners for radio signals (the so-called radio sets or the misnomer transistors), and today it is possible to tune in to thousands of radio stations worldwide with only three things which are readily available with almost everyone living in the urban setup today: a 4G/3G enabled cell phone, working internet connection and a good speaker. The era of internet radio has started with a boom and it is changing the way radio is being broadcast throughout the world.

We are proud to have the largest radio network on the planet, something which needed an upgrade to bring itself in sync with the modern generation. Internet is the way forward for this sync and digital broadcast is indeed the way to go. Prasar Bharti, the parent organization of AIR has understood this, thankfully, and with the launch of their app on the Google Play and iOS store as well as the live broadcast available on the website, they have ensured that radio broadcast from every station reaches the modern generation. It has in my mind, the potential to be the “giant leap forward” for AIR, so to speak.

Imagine being able to listen to your home radio stations thousands of kilometers away. Earlier, with the transmitters of the medium wavelength range (few Khz ) the regional services of AIR were limited to regions where the stations were situated and often interrupted by telephone signals. The short wave broadcast (a few Mhz) has more range, but thanks to the more powerful Chinese transmitters, right across the Himalayas, the experience is not a very soothing one, especially in the regions in proximity to the Himalayas. But, with all the regional as well as national and international stations of AIR available via the internet this problem is largely solved. I can listen to my home station AIR Darbhanga located in Bihar state, sitting in my room more than 1200 km away!

As I mentioned, the internet radio is going to be a watershed moment in the radio broadcast as never before so much content was available so easily and for free. There are a few apps that I have tried which provide access to the enthralling world of radio. I am listing a few apps which can be used. Some are totally free, some are free but with pop-up or banner ads in between while some require a subscription.

Prasar Bharti Online: This is the official app from the AlR and easily my first choice. It contains 180 radio stations from every region in the country and available anywhere as long as you have a working internet connection. The app as well as the website allow live streaming as well a plethora of programs being broadcast from the all India radio. The app and the website are totally free to use. The links are provided here:

https://prasarbharati.gov.in/ (online)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.parsarbharti.airnews (google play)

https://apps.apple.com/in/app/newsonair/id1450030867 (ios)

The BBC iPlayer Radio: Apart from AIR, the radio content from BBC is most widely consumed in India and they offer the BBC iPlayer app which is available on both the Google Play and iOS stores and is absolutely free to download and use. The website of iPlayer doesn’t allow streaming in India and thus we have to rely on the apps only for the content.

Vradio: It is my favorite app to listen to the radio. The USP for this app is that it contains radio stations from hundreds of networks which include the AIR, BBC, and iheart networks. Thus, this app is the swiss knife of all radio apps. If you are diving into the world of radio for the first time, there can be no other app better than this at the moment.


​TuneIN radio: It is the neatest app I have encountered so far as radio is concerned. 100,000+ radio stations are available.

More to be added soon..

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