Even as World Radio Day is observed every year on February 13 to preserve the importance of radio as well as to encourage decision makers to provide access to information through radio, it was the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat’ which got the medium of Radio into special focus when its 100th episode was aired from All India Radio on April 30 (Sunday).
The programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’ dominated media headlines where the Prime Minister was hailed for triggering social change among Indian societies by reaching out to the unreached through this programme.
Unarguably, the PM Narendra Modi enjoys mass support of the Indian public of all caste, creed and colour as he has popularly emerged as the only “Peoples’ Prime Minister” in the history of independent India.
There may be scores of reasons to count and attribute them to Modi's popularity. But, politics apart, I count his direct connection with the masses at the grassroots level, even in remotest geographical locations of the country, as one of the main reasons for his popularity.
In an unmatched strategic move, he capitalized on the power of radio to reach to the unreached and mingled with common masses through his remarkable and apolitical radio programme – 'Mann Ki Baat' (The heart talk).
Indeed, he built the chemistry of social strength, culture and other social values in a sustained manner through this programme, and earned the respect of people to whom he shared his 'Mann Ki Baat'.
It is estimated that over 90% of the country's population has access to the radio broadcast, which is why it was supposedly chosen in the first place. Now it has proved a legendary move by the PM to reach out to people.
Remarkably, addressing the public directly, especially through a medium as accessible as radio, is a commendable grassroots level approach.
Through all the 100 episodes of the ‘Mann Ki Baat', Modi continued to give assurance to the general public that the government is working for them. Simply, the broadcast proved a great way of communication to the masses, which is acknowledged and appreciated by one and all.
Best part is that the radio programme has remained apolitical as the Prime Minister successfully managed to keep it outside the purview of politics with the help of his listeners who often send suggestions.
The programme succeeded in creating several mass movements in the country for betterment of Indian societies and communities. For instance, campaigns like "selfie with daughters" became a social media revolution which led to greater debate about protection and education of girl child. He spoke about the "Swachh Bharat" (Clean India) campaign, which later turned into a social movement where youngsters and school children took it upon themselves to promote the ‘Clean India’ mission.
The basic point here is that the Prime Minister talked to the masses through ‘Mann Ki Baat' as a family member. He discussed issues confronting even the poorest of the poor. The audience always felt elated as the prime minister was guiding them to peace, prosperity and profits through this broadcast. He gave them a feeling that none other than the prime minister personally cares for them.
Today, 'Mann Ki Baat' programme is the best example to narrate the power of radio in bringing social change. The broadcast reiterates that radio is certainly relevant when technology has revolutionised the television broadcast. It reaches remote geographical locations which are media-dark regions.
It can be leveraged to bring about social change among the underprivileged population which have no access to contemporary media channels. Someone has rightly said, 'voice is the internet of the poor'. People have always shown unflinching faith on the content aired on radio and the vast population of the country relies on it for the consumption of news and for entertainment purposes.
If we look at the journey of radio as one of the oldest mass communication mediums, its survival itself is a success story. When almost all traditional media either disappeared from the scene or became redundant in the amazing technology revolution, the medium of radio not only thrived, but expanded in use. It didn’t become a victim of modern technology onslaught, but embraced the technology to remain as an outstanding competitor in the field of mass communication.
Otherwise, with the advent of technology and the power of the Internet coupled with the thrill of moving pictures, it was confidently prophesied that radio as a broadcasting medium would be facing imminent death. Today, the fact is that radio has emerged as the ultimate survivor, adapting itself successfully to the tastes of the newer generations of listeners and making best use of newer technologies to connect cross sections of societies for development without caring for circumstances.
It’s the only medium where the content is always fresh and original. During the Covid crisis, the radio broadcasters successfully established a deep connection with the listeners and helped the audience in lifting the spirits and diminishing the anxiety through a variety of programmes.
The most outstanding role of the radio has been bringing a social change for betterment while acting as influencers through its programmes. In this era of digital age where there is a barrage of fake news, it is the radio broadcasters who have helped spread awareness and assisted listeners navigate their way through this maze of misinformation and paid news. In the words of a broadcaster, being a very personal and distanced form of communication, radio has now become a new ‘comfort companion’ for its listeners.
Precisely, it’s the Radio which has always kept its audience intact even in extreme crisis situations – be it social, political, economic or an unprecedented health emergency like Covid- 19 pandemic. This voice medium has never let its audience down when it comes to firsthand information on issues confronting them and has proved a credible means of information and education through entertainment mode.
Meanwhile, one of the most outstanding contributions of the ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme is that it infused a new blood in the popularity of radio (All India Radio) and enhanced the credibility of the medium.
To be precise, it would not be an exaggeration to state that the monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat' programme revived the vibrancy of radio. Soon after assuming power, Modi in the most surprising move lent tremendous credence to radio by capitalizing on its reach. It was almost a rebirth of Radio in India when he in a conversational manner started this very personal broadcast 'Maan Ki Baat' to reach Indian citizens in every nook and corner of the country.
Lastly, in the context of the J & K region, radio has a very special role in the given situation. Radio, popularly known as Radio Kashmir (now called All India Radio, Srinagar) has played a pivotal role in negating the propaganda launched from across the border.
Today, there is an urgent need to restore the glory of this station. Strategically, All India Radio, Srinagar has a very important role to play in the peace and prosperity of the region. The current situation demands to encourage the broadcasting professionals running the local AIR stations and further empower them to deliver in line with the given priorities. Focus on developmental programmes will definitely help to shape positive thinking on the subjects important to the region.
(The views are of the author and not that of the institution he works for)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.