AIR's 31-year old national channel to fall silent

It has also ordered for the closure of the AIR's regional academies of broadcasting and multimedia (RABM), where staff were trained, in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Shillong and Thiruvananthapuram “with immediate effect” for the same reason.

People will no more be able to tune on to the All India Radio's national channel which aired a variety of popular programmes including news bulletin every hour from 6 pm to 6 am since 1987.

The Prasar Bharati has ordered for “immediate” shut down of the 31-year-old national channel as part of its “rationalisation and cost-cutting” measures.

It has also ordered for the closure of the AIR's regional academies of broadcasting and multimedia (RABM), where staff were trained, in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Shillong and Thiruvananthapuram “with immediate effect” for the same reason.

“In order to rationalise the AIR services and keeping in view the cost-cutting measures, it has been decided by the Prasar Bharati to close down the national channel of the AIR and RAMBs with immediate effect,” assistant director of programme A K Balooni said in an office order issued on behalf of the AIR director general for the closure of the channel on Thursday.

An annual budget of about Rs 3 crore was earmarked for the channel which aired a variety of programmes including financial reviews, sports round-up and panel discussions on topical issues besides hourly news bulletin.

With its closure, the radio listeners will now have access to the AIR's Delhi channels till 11.15 pm besides its regional channels. Beyond 11.15 pm, people will have to settle down with the 24x7 FM radio stations of the AIR, which primarily offers entertainment.

The public broadcaster have no plan in place to provide an immediate alternative to the AIR listeners who have been tuning on to the overnight services of the national channel from 6 pm in evening for the last 31 years to listen to their favourite programmes including hourly news bulletins.

“Rationalisation of terrestrial broadcasting is a continuous process. We have been reviewing areas that have not been effective and where technology is getting obsolete. This is an ongoing exercise and will continue,” Prasar Bharati chief executive officer (CEO) Shashi Shekhar Vempati told DH when contacted.

He said Prasar Bharati will invest in “new areas that we expect to be relevant.”

“Technology is forward-looking as digital. As far as a national stream goes, it is our desire that we should have a 24x7 news stream. We are working towards it,” he added.

Sources said the AIR's national channel faces shut down as a superpower transmitter, installed for it in 1987 at a location in Nagpur, had gradually worn out in its capacity with time, leading to shrinking of the radio signals in various parts of the country.

The 1000 kV transmitter had been installed in Nagpur to provide signals evenly across all the regions in view of its location being at the centre of the country.

“It should have been replaced much earlier but it was never done,” they added.

The channel, which was operated from New Delhi, was started to air a variety of programmes in Hindi, English, Urdu and some other Indian languages for the radio listeners with “national flavour” as the AIR had only regional and local level radio stations to cater to the listeners' needs.

“It was this channel of the AIR which broke the news of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassination at Sriperambudur in 1991. It had huge followings,” sources said, raising questions on the Prasar Bharati's decision to shut down the channel.

While the channel's programmes “of archival value” will be sent to the central archives here for digitisation and preservation “for posterity,” those working with the channel and the RABMs will be sent to the AIR's other units.

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AIR's 31-year old national channel to fall silent

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