Hundreds left jobless as AIR makes Kozhikode FM station a relay centre

Decision to stop local programmes flayed

Hundreds of part-time contributors and artists in Kozhikode have been rendered jobless with the All India Radio converting its local ‘Real F.M.’ station as just another centre to relay programmes from other stations.

According to sources, this is part of a rebranding exercise by the public service broadcaster. Over 80 local stations are being merged to have 36 centralised broadcasting platforms. Decisions to this effect were taken in 2020. The role of the local stations would be confined to relaying programmes from other major centres and recording and sending programmes based on the demand from the top. In Kerala, public news service would be under the Thiruvananthapuram station and entertainment programmes would be under Kochi.

The sources said that the staff strength in AIR is seeing a sharp decline in the past two years with many permanent employees retiring and more on the way. There are reports that a majority of the staff are aged above 50. So the organisation is reportedly trying to sustain the coverage with limited staff and resources.

The decision to stop local programmes has, however, not gone down well as this F.M. Station had been quite popular not only among Kozhikode residents, but also with radio aficionados in adjacent districts and even abroad as well. Listeners glued into these programmes through their radio sets and mobile phones, and those abroad through AIR’s mobile application.

Its programmes had a mix of entertainment and information that attracted many. There were programmes such as ‘Dil Se Dil Tak’ featuring old Bollywood songs, ‘Hello Ishtaganam’, a phone-in programme where listeners can demand the songs of their choice, ‘Kinchanavarthamanam’, ‘Priyageetham’, ‘Ganamalika’, ‘F.M. Choice’, ‘Rareeram’, ‘Kallaikadavath’, ‘Scene and Song’, ‘Sasneham’ and ‘Ormacheppu’. ‘Real F.M Show’ presented various contemporary issues. Those who contributed to these programmes are now left to fend for themselves.

The station had good ad revenue as well, with functionaries of the Malabar Development Council claiming that ‘Real F.M.’ was at the second slot in the State. On January 2, however, the listeners started hearing programmes airing from the Thiruvananthapuram station after 9 a.m. The name was changed to Vividh Bharti. Now, only the programmes relayed from other stations such as Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Mumbai could be heard from here. The local staff were apparently not informed in advance about this move.

Meanwhile, M.K. Raghavan, Kozhikode MP, wrote to Anurag Thakur, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, and the Chief Executive Officer, Prasar Bharti, demanding that the change be revoked. He pointed out that though similar steps had been taken earlier as well, they were withdrawn following popular protests.

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