Lament over death of a quality radio

We expect the New Year to bring hope and cheer. But for four lakh subscribers of the World Space radio, the New Year arrived with the bad news of death of the first satellite radio in India. From Dec 31, 2009, the broadcast service was terminated for all customers serviced from India.

Though satellite radio is well established in the developed world, in India World Space launched its services in 2001. Over the years, it had built up a solid subscriber base with its loyal customers.

Despite the overwhelming presence of FM stations in metros and small towns, why did people opt for World Space?

With 40 radio channels, broadcast non-stop for 24 hours, it was the quality of the reception as well as the diversity of the channels that attracted the listeners. It catered to those who wanted to listen from Western Classical to Hindustani and Carnatic music. From the recent Bollywood to the golden era of old Hindi film songs.
And it had its own niche of 10 regional language channels. From rock music to spiritual discourses, from BBC to World Radio Network, it really provided diverse options. All these channels came without any and irritation of advertisements interrupting the programme.

Fed up with the numerous TV and FM channels, people were eager to try out something different. World Space catered to a special group for whom quality and diversity mattered. Lamenting over the death of the radio Laxmi Prabha, a listener, said “I am filled with tears to think World Space would go silent. This has been my only companion all through. It has been consistently providing quality music for so long which any radio station or TV channel could not do. What I pray for its sustenance.”

Ramya Krishnamurty from Bangalore writes on her blog: “When my World Space receiver will crackle no more from now, an inanimate but inseparable partner over the last nine years will suddenly vanish from my life. I will become a World Space widow. It is a loss difficult to explain, even more difficult for those unaware of the phenomenon to understand what it means.”

As a regular listener I would say that it was a different world filled with the space and time of the everlasting feast of music that won the hearts and minds of people. Unlike other MNCs who are keen on imposing uniformity of its product, it supported the cause of diversity of language and different cultures. One had the option to listen to modern and classical music from different parts of the world. It acted as a soothing agent to ease the present day tensions that has become the part of modern living.

What is intriguing is the fact that the parent company in USA filed for bankruptcy due to heavy losses incurred for its operations in Dec 2008. But it never gave a clue of terminating its services in India till Dec 2009. It Another US-based company, Liberty Media, has brought out World Space but it is not keen on continuing business in India.

The fate of 300 odd employees, based in Bangalore is unknown. The society will lose a platform to regenerate the cultural roots of regional languages and classical music. It is surprising that the Indian MNCs, which have the capacity to fund such ventures, are not keen on tapping this resource.

In modern times, a satellite radio that attempts to charter its own course without the support of advertisement is bound to face stiff challenges. Despite this challenge the first satellite radio in India survived for nine years. The time is ripe for an Indian entrepreneur to launch a new initiative to galvanise the era of digital and satellite radio that meets the demands of a sane radio fan.

Will our billionaires who are proud to be listed in Forbes list be willing to shell out a minuscule of their profits to rescue the saner voice that has the capacity to bring peace and happiness to millions?

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