At a time, when the central government is making efforts to popularise radio among people in rural areas by introducing FM (Frequency Modulation) channels, the All India Radio's Rohtak station has discontinued the production and broadcast of programmes on its FM channel, which were being aired on 103.5 megahertz.
The curtains came down on the FM channel, which daily used to run two-hour programmes containing local flavour and was widely accepted by regular listeners, during its first anniversary in the first week of October.
Besides coming as a jolt to radio listeners within and outside Haryana, the closure of the FM channel has upset over 40 young casual announcers who were given the training to broadcast programmes by AIR-Rohtak a year ago.
The announcement has also rendered casual announcers jobless, who used to pursue their passion along with earning a decent amount as pocket money.
'Lack of funds'
AIR-Rohtak programme executive Ran Singh Kajale claimed that lack of funds from the information and broadcasting ministry was a reason behind taking the call of closing the FM channel, which was doing well in terms of response from listeners.
He said they had demanded `1 crore for the station, but the ministry only sanctioned `45 lakh, which is a small amount for running the station smoothly. However, sources, who are heading AIR stations in Punjab said there is no dearth of funds for running radio stations, as the ministry had recently sanctioned `3 crore to Ludhiana's AIR station, while the Jalandhar station is already managing five different channels successfully.
Notably, information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari had launched an FM station in Ludhiana in August.
The internal politics in AIR-Rohtak has resulted in the closure of several popular radio shows alleges, a popular female casual announcer, who started her career in broadcasting few years ago. A married woman with mother of two, who hails from a village 15km from here, she told HT that she came here to learn broadcasting but as soon her popularity rose, staff started harassing her one pretext or the other.
On the arbitrary closure of her shows by the staff, she sought information under the Right to Information Act, which resulted in more harassment, she alleged. A businessman-turned-casual announcer said permanent staff is so adamant and rude with casual announcers that it had started hampering the quality of programmes.
Giving an example, he said the recorded programmes of casual announcers are deleted or edited just at their whims of regular staff to let down casual announcers. He said casual announcers hesitate to speak against the station staff because the release of their payment entirely depends on them.
Sports programmes curtailed
After the AIR-Rohtak head was changed in April this year, the present programme executive, Ran Singh Kajale, has curtailed the duration of one of the most popular daily show -- 'Yuva Vani' -- from one hour to half-an-hour.
Another important sports show 'Baatein Khalo Ki', which used to be broadcast on alternate days has been deleted from the schedule. Sources said it was started by the then station director, Suman Pal, who was very popular among listeners owing to her administrative and broadcasting experience in managing the affairs. The change in schedule came into force on the very next day of her retirement in April. Live air shows like 'Road Show' and 'Dastak' were also closed down unceremoniously.
Snubbing listeners on phone
On the condition of anonymity, AIR-Rohtak staff members told HT that enraged over the station's decision to close several programmes abruptly when listeners started enquiring about the reasons during some live shows, they were allegedly snubbed during the show. Sources said the internal politics has reached at such a level that the staff members have started playing with the broadcast as sometime they switch off the feeder during live shows.
Need creative staff
Former AIR-Rohtak station head Suman Pal, who retired on March 31, 2012, and was dubbed as the most successful station director after she started several new radio programmes, said the radio station needs creative people to run the broadcast, who can think and plan.
She said the focus of the I&B ministry is to spread awareness besides entertaining people and the FM channel has proved the best medium to catch the pulse of listeners.
She said youngsters should be encouraged and the reins of the station should be in the hands of experts. After being told about the closure of FM at AIR, Rohtak, she said it took painstaking efforts to get the green nod for FM here, but if it had been closed down without any reason, it is bound to give a bad impression on All India Radio in the larger picture.
Demand of programmes on sports, youth
Experts said Haryana has emerged as a hub of sports and there is a sea of talent in rural parts of the state, so the station of the state should focus more on sports programmes. There is also unending demand of live shows and road shows, which instantly connect with the common man. Youth shows like 'Yuva Vani' should be started again, as it attracts the youth to radio.
What listeners say
Ram Kala from Dhani Khutubpur near Hansi in Hisar said live shows, which contained entertainment, knowledge and liveliness, had been abruptly called off without any intimation to listeners, which left them sore over the unpopular decision.
Expressing his displeasure, a sports enthusiast from Panipat said he failed to understand as what had gone wrong with the quality of show aired on AIR-Rohtak in last five months. Earlier, the shows used to catch the interest, tickle the funny bone and contained updated and correct information, but now charm of radio is dying down, as it lacked on these fronts, he said.
Gajender Singh, a resident of Rohtak, said, "Radio is very popular and omnipresent with the masses in metro cities, as one can listen at home, office or while driving a car, and one can't ignore the growth of FM channels in big cities." He said if it can be done there and is being done in neighbouring Punjab, then the decision of AIR-Rohtak to close FM channel is surprising.