All India Radio is going off air. It is being replaced by Akashvani. The next radio bulletin that you listen to in English on the government-run service will begin with the announcement, “This is Akashvani” in place of “this is All India Radio.”
In a satellite message on Wednesday, May 3, relayed from the policy division of the office of the director general, Akashvani, to all centres across the country, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has decided to enforce a provision of the law by which the radio vertical of Prasar Bharati will now be called only Akashvani.
Former I&B minister Manish Tiwari says, “What is wrong with the term All India Radio being used in English? It is really a silly, inane branding exercise which is completely redundant. This doesn’t matter except for pure tokenism.”
In fact, the word “Akashvani” was a poetic translation of All India Radio first coined by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in 1939. Unable to come to inaugurate the Dalhousie Square office of All India Radio, Calcutta, he sent a message where the word was first used. “The freedom movement was at its height and the word Akashvani soon became a part of the subtle nationalism prevailing at that time,” says Jawahar Sircar, TMC MP and former I&B secretary.
Actually, there existed a radio station in Mysuru called Akashvani much before Tagore’s coinage in 1939, but the word was popularised by Tagore.
So now, per the message from headquarters, the new announcement pattern will be followed in other languages or dialects as well. So AIR may be broadcast in 179 tongues, but the radio vertical will still have a Hindi nomenclature.
The Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990 brought into force in November 1997, has a provision, Section 2 (A), which defines “Akashvani” to mean “the offices, stations and other establishments by whatever name called, which immediately before the appointed day formed part of or were under the Director General, All India Radio of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.” The ministry has now decided to implement this provision after 26 years.
“The provision of the Act is very clear. It says all establishments that were a part of the radio vertical on the appointed date which is November 15, 1997. The law is not clear as to what happens to offices set up post this date,” says Sircar.
“If doing away with a colonial legacy is the aim of this new announcement, then what about Vividh Bharati?” he asks. Started in 1957 as an answer to the enormously popular Radio Ceylon, the budget head for Vividh Bharati in the Union budget is still under “commercial broadcasting service”, Sircar points out. “As CEO, Prasar Bharati, I had once asked what was the budget for Vividh Bharati which happens to be the most popular arm of AIR. The officers gave blank looks because Vividh Bharati had an English name for all official communication and that was Commercial Broadcasting Service. How about changing that first?” he says.