Radio: From History of Propaganda to Economy of Nonsense

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Here’s an analysis of the changes which contrived for the sake of sustenance in the world of radio which lead to an ultimate depletion in it’s content.

With the onset of diversifying broadcast and a promising future, radio alighted in India in the 20th century. The State held more confidence in it than television, which also made headway during the time, because the former was not anticipated to have the potential to corrupt it’s audience and can be easily used as a propaganda tool in the garb of spreading pedagogy.

Radio was very well received because of its feasibility and non requisite of literacy for access. News relayed through it penetrated across demographics- even the remote and backward rural areas. Such hefty popularity was exploited for the likes of people in power.

Chomsky believed that what one can achieve in totaliter system by force can be achieved by propaganda in a democracy. Especially during the Second World War, the West and The Third Reich started radio wars. Joseph Goebbles who was the murderous propaganda manager for Hitler, actively monitored the spread of Nazi white propaganda through radio. After that it was used by the USSR at the outbreak of cold war, then by Communist China and later by Indira Gandhi during the emergency of 1975. Some also label ‘Man Ki Baat’ by Prime Minister Modi- an attempt at propaganda mongering.

With time and technological advancement, the power dynamic of politics shifted to capitalism and propaganda of consumerism started to spread. Advertisements took over, and the purpose of radio changed from information relay to source of entertainment. The golden days were here. Song requests were made and two way communication in real time began. Commercialisation of radio opened new skies. Lover’s spat was reconciled and letters were read in studio rooms.

With time radio kept on adjusting to suit the changing needs of the society to sustain in the market but the competition not only from other FMs started to increase, but the incoming of new media threatened radio altogether. How many of us tuned in to radio to listen to news on Vividh Bharti? Many turn to radio as the last resort in case of network issues when they are not able to access Podcasts and Spotify which have taken over. Perhaps because of this desperate attempt to retain  the listeners, the content of radio has become the slave of the owners and capitalists.

There are more advertisements than songs and even the songs are repetitive and mostly redundant, and fail to suit the likes of today’s urban youth. The Radio Jockeys(RJs) who are quintessential to radio have taken to new media platforms of YouTube and Instagram to promote their content. RJ Naved from radio Mirchi conducted a vox pop sponsored by tinder, and it couldn’t be far from a scripted buffoonery. This RJ is famous for conducting Mirchi Murga which also is cringy, scripted and far from comical content, aimed at garnering laughters. Another RJ Raunac from Red FM, took to YouTube to criticise Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) fee hike with totally falsified facts and misinformation. He also does voiceover as a ‘bauaa’  who prank calls people. Such obvious scripted content topped with lame jokes have become a normal occurrence for radio content.

The nonsense on radio is engineered with a certain economy which manipulates people into buying not only the nonsense, but also the product put for sale. Radio has once again become a passive medium which uses music while propagating consumerism. From winning wars to selling products radio has had massive transformation in its purpose over the years, but the takers have changed. People in the metro cities may have moved on, but those in the countryside still resort to radio as a means for what urbanites may call ‘cheap aesthetics,’ they call ‘cheap entertainment.’

Feature Image Credits: India Today

Umaima Khanam

[email protected]

Comments are closed.