Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

National Broadcasting Day 2023: How the Radio came to India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Broadcasting Day , AIR, Usha Mehta

Mains level: NA


Central Idea

  • This July 23, commemorated 100 years of radio broadcast in India.
  • All India Radio (AIR) started broadcasting in 1923 via 2 private stations called the Radio Club of Bombay and Calcutta Radio Club.

Facts for Prelims: Usha Mehta’s Secret Radio

usha mehta radio

  • On August 8, 1942, the historic Quit India Resolution was passed during the All India Congress Committee meeting in Bombay.
  • In this response, the idea of an underground radio station, known by various names such as the Freedom Radio, the Ghost Radio, or the Congress Radio, was conceived to counter the British-controlled AIR.
  • Usha Mehta, a 22 YO master’s student at Wilson College, became the voice of the Congress Radio.
  • The radio was an expensive endeavour, but funds were procured through various means, including contributions from Mehta’s colleague, Babubhai Khakhar.
  • Radio engineering expert Nariman Abarbad Printer constructed the Congress Radio transmission set.
  • Their first broadcast was on 14 August 1942.
  • Welcome line in her voice: “This is the Congress Radio calling on 42.34 from somewhere in India.”
  • In the beginning, they were broadcasting twice a day, in Hindi and English. But they reduced it to just once in the evening between 7.30 and 8.30 pm.
  • On 12th November 1942, the police raided the radio while Vande Mataram was being played and arrested Mehta and others.
  • Mehta was conferred the Padma Vibhushan, one of India’s highest civilian honours in 1998.

About All India Radio

  • On July 23, 1927, the Indian Broadcasting Company (IBC) was formed, but it faced liquidation within three years.
  • To revive the IBC, Lionel Fielden, a BBC producer, was appointed as the first Controller of Broadcasting in August 1935.
  • In June 1936, the Indian State Broadcasting Service (ISBS) transformed into All India Radio.
  • In August 1937, it became the Central News Organisation (CNO) under the Department of Information and Broadcasting.

Expansion and Name Change

  • In 1947, India had six radio stations, covering 2.5% of the area and 11% of the population. Pakistan had three radio stations.
  • In 1956, the name “AKASHVANI” was adopted as the National Broadcaster, used interchangeably with AIR, primarily for Hindi broadcasting.
  • The famous jingle of AIR was composed by Walter Kaufmann, who joined AIR in 1937 and significantly contributed to Indian music.

Current Status of AIR

  • Today, AIR has a network of around 260 radio stations, covering nearly 92% of the country’s total area and serving almost the entire population.
  • It broadcasts in 23 languages and 146 dialects, making it a broadcasting giant in India.


  • Vividh Bharati Service: Launched in 1957, it included popular film music as a major component.
  • BV Keskar’s Ban on Film Music: In 1952, AIR imposed a ban on film music, causing Radio Ceylon to gain popularity among Hindi film music enthusiasts with shows like Geetmala.
  • Film Industry’s Response: The film industry withdrew music rights from AIR, leading to the absence of film music on the radio.

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