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AIR observes the External Broadcast Day on 1st October 2018

Another momentous occasion for us in the External Services of All India Radio. For the first time in its history we are observing the External Broadcast Day on 1st October 2018. This also marks the beginning of a yearlong celebration of the 80th anniversary of External broadcast in India.

Eight decades is a long time in the life of an individual. Like in case of a human being as during this period , an institution traverses through many challenges, trials and tribulations. External Services of All India Radio is also no exception to this. Since its inception in 1939 it has passed through its hours of glory and relative sunset moments. From a buoyant high of 37 language broadcast at the height of the World War II in 1945 it plummeted to only 16 just before the dawn of Independence, when it was relegated to insignificance. Independence infused new life into it when it emerged as the voice of a newborn nation trying to announce herself to the world. Notwithstanding the initial bonhomie, external broadcast again fell into disuse as never ever its full potential as a significant tool for public diplomacy and instrument of foreign policy and international relations was fully comprehended, explored and hence not exploited by those in the business of diplomacy. Unlike elsewhere in the world; diplomacy, foreign policy and external broadcast continued to be conducted in silos. Over the years, this disconnect got ossified. World around was however changing in the meanwhile and was changing fast. Countries with whom we unfortunately have a zero sum relations were making strides in the domain of public diplomacy through the medium of radio adding language after language to their bouquet and were adopting modern technology to reach out to the world. In contrast, external broadcast here was gasping and battling out the institutional apathy. Four years ago when after an eventful tenure in the Ministry of Rural Development involving nationwide implementation of development communication strategies, I joined External Services Division for my second stint, the place appeared frozen in time and like a living fossil as I and my wife who accompanied me walked into the place. An all pervading gloom was writ large on every face as the diiktat for it’s imminent closure had been received and everyone was waiting for the inevitable final pull of the hangman’s lever. It was at this crucial cross roads of ESD’s history , I was called upon by the Director General and given the mantle of External broadcast and reposed his trust . I felt humbled as giants and stalwarts of Indian and World broadcasting like Ms. Mehra Masani, P.C. Chatterjee, K.P. Shunghloo, U.L. Baruah , N.L Chawla among others had adorned this position. But the pygmy in me refused to be the daunted and become the ” First minister in King’s government to preside over its liquidation.” Instead, I took the bull by horns. I gave myself 6 months to script the turn around story of External Broadcast or quit. It indeed was a tall order. Enthusing the colleagues who had their spirits at bootlace level and gaining their confidence to partner in this uphill ride and bringing the external stakeholders on board had to be done quickly. A technological leapfrogging was also crucial. I must confess, once convinced all my colleagues and my seniors particularly Mr. Fayyaz Sheheryar, the DG stood by me. The culmination of all that is, today no longer anyone talks about closing down ESD or it being ” a colossal national wastage and Rs. 100 crore going down the drain.” Now the talk is about strengthening the ESD. We have added new services. Gone digital. Have 28 multimedia Websites and Apps of international standard for our language services. We are now present on alternate platforms like Radio Garden, Tune in, Alexa voice command system. Our relationship with MEA is no longer episodic. We are reconnecting to our listeners and patrons every passing day on every platform in which we have made our presence.

It is in this backdrop, the celebration of the first External Broadcast Day and the beginning of the observence of the 80th anniversary is personally significant and gratifying for me.

Source : Amlanjyoti Majumdar

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