Little did the small group of people who watched the first moving film in 1896 in Mumbai (then Bombay) suspect that a revolution was to unfold. No industry has had the kind of appeal that films have had for their makers and viewers alike. After the print media, it was the moving picture that caught the fancy of the Indian masses.
Dadasaheb Phalkhe screened Raja Harishchandra, India’s first full-length film in 1913. The industry hasn’t looked back since then and has marched steadily ahead with determined men and women who put everything they had on the line to pursue their passion. It was against this backdrop that the first radio show was broadcast in British India in the 1920s. Radio was the third media wave to hit India (after print and the moving film), a truly democratic medium where the listener paid nothing for content. Though this was still some time before the integration between these two mediums took place, the sync between the two seemed unmatchable.
As the film industry matured technically and in every other aspect, filmmakers saw radio as a tremendous opportunity to promote their films and reach out to their audience. These were times when each film had 20-30 songs – this was before the number was reduced to accommodate melodramatic dialogue – and listeners loved to hear popular song shows taking in listeners’ requests. Other shows regularly updated the music charts based on listeners’ choices. The radio, then, was the best medium to promote films.
Film songs, film dialogue and star interviews had mass appeal and this became a driver for both the industries. The reach and popularity of film music and content took the airwaves by storm. Radio had a reach that converted itself as a medium to the common man.
Terrestrial television in India started with an experimental telecast in Delhi in 1959 but regular, daily transmission started in 1965 (in a phased manner). Up until then, it was the radio which kept Indians abreast of all the latest news and entertainment. Radio had a slew of film-based shows, which had an instant connection with the listeners.
With the development of technology and the advent of FM radio, listening to the radio was an experience unlike anything listeners had heard before. The clarity lent itself to a wider audience base. From transistors and basic radio sets, the radio was now heard on the go – in cars, on mobile phones, on personal apps.
In India, Phase 2 government guidelines for radio content were to be predominantly film-based, and the competition between channels grew intense and fresh. Innovative ways to hook the listener made it exciting and interactive for listeners and lucrative for the advertisers.
The film industry continues the use of FM radio to promote movies, songs and stars in the run-up to the big releases, and it is a fact that the radio has, on a number of occasions, led to grand openings at the box office.
With Phase 3 reforms for FM round the corner, one can’t help but look forward to some exciting days ahead for radio.
Soumen G Choudhury, Business Head, 92.7 BIG FM and BIG Digital