All India Radio now under Prasar Bharati has the distinction of being one of the major broadcasting organizations in the world. The News Services Division (NSD) of All India Radio disseminates news and comments to listeners in India and abroad. From 27 news bulletins in 1939-40, AIR today puts more than 510 bulletins daily around 52 hours in 82 languages/dialects in the Home, Regional and External Services.
Out of these, 89 bulletins are broadcast daily from Delhi in the Home Service in English, Hindi and other Indian languages. The 44 Regional News Units (RNUs) putout 355 daily news bulletins in 67 languages. This includes news bulletins mounted exclusively on FM ‘Gold’ channel from 22 AIR Stations.
In addition to the daily news bulletins, the News Services Division also mounts everyday a number of news-based programmes on topical subjects from Delhi and some other Regional News Units.
The history of news broadcasting in India is much older than that of All India Radio. The first ever news bulletin in the country went on the air from the Bombay Station on July 23, 1927 under a private company, the Indian Broadcasting Company. A month later on August 26, 1927 another bulletin in Bengali was started from the Calcutta Station. Until 1935, two bulletins, one each in English and Hindustani were broadcast from Bombay and a bulletin in Bengali was broadcast from Calcutta. The Indian Broadcasting Company went into liquidation in March, 1930 following which broadcasting came under the direct control of the Government of India. The service was designated as the Indian State Broadcasting Service. It was renamed All India Radio on June 8, 1936.
The real breakthrough in news broadcasting came after January 1936 when the first news bulletin from the Delhi Station went on the air on January 19, 1936 coinciding with the starting of its transmission. Besides, news bulletins in English and Hindustani, talks on current affairs were also started from the Station in both the languages.
The Central News Organization was set up on August 1, 1937. Mr. Charles Barns took charge as the first News Editor in September and he later became the first Director of News. The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 gave an impetus to the development of the Organization. The Monitoring Service was set up in 1939 to monitor foreign broadcasts. In 1943, the External Broadcast Unit was set up under the Director of News. By 1945, the Central News Organization was handling news bulletins in different Indian languages as well as in the External Services.
After Independence, news broadcasts of AIR grew both in quantity and quality. More emphasis was laid on national and regional news bulletins.
The News Services Division broadcasts from Delhi 86 daily news bulletins in English, Hindi and 17 Indian languages for a duration of 12 hours and 20 minutes. In Hindi, 21 news bulletins are broadcast for a duration of two hours 30 minutes while 20 news bulletins are put out in English everyday for a duration of 2 hours and 25 minutes. These include two Sports news bulletins one each in Hindi and English. Apart from Hindi, forty-time news bulletins in 17 Indian languages for a duration of 7 hours and 45 minutes are broadcast everyday. The importance of language bulletins lies in the fact that they are the main source of national, international and regional news for the masses in small towns and villages. The evening bulletins in Dogri, Kashmiri and Urdu also include a commentary on topical subjects.
Regional bulletins were introduced in the early fifties. The first news bulletins in regional languages were started in April, 1953 from Lucknow and Nagpur Stations. In 1954-55, Regional News Units were set up at Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. This went on steadily and at present there are 45 Regional News Units functioning in different parts of the country. 146 news bulletins in 66 regional languages/dialects including English and Hindi are broadcast for a duration of 19 hours and 35 minutes.
To start with, the External Services were part of the News Services Division. They were de-linked from the News Services Division on September 15, 1948. However, the responsibility of compiling the external news bulletins remains with the News Services Division. At present, a total of 66 news bulletins are broadcast daily in 26 languages (Indian and Foreign) for a duration of 9 hours and 13 minutes. Fifty six of these go on the air from Delhi while the ten bulletins of 1 hours 20 minutes duration are put out by our 56 RNUs – Mumbai (01), Kolkata (03), Hyderabad (01) and Chennai (2),Dharwad(11),Ahmedabad(2).
The News Services Division is putting out news headlines on FM ‘Rainbow’ channel from Delhi from May 28, 1995. Twenty four news headline bulletins on FM ‘Rainbow’ are broadcast round-the-clock from Delhi. The duration of each headline FM ‘Rainbow’ bulletin from Delhi is one minute approx. At present 22 AIR stations are broadcasting FM Headlines.
The then Information and Broadcasting Minister launched a news and entertainment channel called AIR FM-II (now called FM Gold) on September 1, 2001. The Channel is on the air for about 18 hours a day from 6 am to 10 minutes past 12 in the night. It is a composite blend of information and entertainment with one third of its contents devoted to news and current affairs. The Channel carries news on the hour originating from Delhi. Composite news programmes in Hindi and English originating from Delhi are exclusively broadcast every morning, midday and evening for a duration of 30 minutes each. These include ‘Samachar Savera’ ,’Dopahar Samachar’ in Hindi and ‘Breakfast News’ in English in the morning and ‘Samachar Sandhya’ in Hindi in the evening. The channel has also some specialized programmes like ‘Market Mantra’ (Business Magazine) and ‘Sports Scan’. Other news-based programmes mounted on FM Gold include ‘Vaad Samvaad’ and ‘Countrywide’ based on interviews with prominent personalities.
In February 1936, talks on current topics were introduced for the first time in English. In September, talks on current topics in Hindustani were added. Later ‘Topics for Today’ and ‘Focus’ on matters of current interest were introduced on 26th October, 1962. The daily ‘Spotlight’ and weekly ‘Current Affairs’ titles were given in place of ‘Topic for Today’ and ‘Focus’ in 1967.
The Current Affairs programme deals with topical issue in which various specialists on the subject express their viewpoints. The half-an-hour programme in English goes on the air from Delhi from 9.30 p.m. on Sundays. The corresponding Hindi programme, “Charcha Ka Vishai Hai” goes on the air from 9.30 p.m. on Wednesdays. ‘Samayiki’ and ‘Spotlight’ are also news-based programmes broadcast daily from Delhi. Commentaries on current topics in Urdu, Kashmiri and Dogri are also put out daily from headquarters, Delhi.
The daily and weekly reviews of the proceedings in Parliament were introduced on February 14, 1961 in English and Hindi. The daily review called ‘Today in Parliament’ in English and ‘Sansad Sameeksha’ in Hindi has two parts, one on the proceedings in the Lok Sabha and the other on those in the Rajya Sabha. The weekly review in English – ‘This week in Parliament’ and that in Hindi ‘ Is Saptah Sansad Main’ – sums up the important highlights of the proceedings in both Houses during the preceding week.
The broadcast of the daily and ‘Weekly Reviews’ of the proceedings of the State legislatures, when they are in session, were started in 1971-72 in the respective regional languages. A review of the ‘Proceedings of the Delhi Assembly’ was started from December 14, 1993.
Radio Newsreel was started on December 10, 1955 both in English (Radio Newsreel) and Hindi (Samachar Darshan) from Delhi. Newsreel in English is broadcast on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday while Samachar Darshan is broadcast on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Some Regional News Units also put out regional Newsreels in the respective regional languages.
AIR news on Phone was introduced on February 25, 1998 from Delhi. The service provides the latest news highlights in Hindi and English to a listener anywhere in the world on phone on dialing the specified numbers. Later, the News on Phone’ service in Tamil from Chennai, in Telugu from Hyderabad, in Marathi from Mumbai and in Hindi from Patna were also introduced. This same service has also been started from the Regional News Units at Ahmedabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore and Jaipur in 2006 and from Imphal and Lucknow in 2007.
NSD has set up new News Studios with facilities for inclusion of “Phone-in’s” and has arrangement for holding Radio bridge conferences on special occasions.
The bulk of AIR news comes from its own Correspondents spread all over the country. It has 90 regular Correspondents in India and five abroad at Colombo, Dhaka, Dubai, Kathmandu, and Kabul . Apart from this, AIR has around 500 Part-time Correspondents based at nearly all district headquarters. The PTCs are to meet the requirements of Doordarshan News also.
NSD subscribes to the news agencies – UNI, PTI and their corresponding Hindi services – Univarta and Bhasha, and ANI to make its bulletins broad-based. Another source of news are the Monitoring Units (English and Hindi) attached to the General Newsroom and the Central Monitoring Services, which monitor the bulletins of major broadcasting organisations of the world. A Radio News Exchange Programme was initiated with the members of the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union to broaden the news coverage. An Information Technology Unit was set up at Delhi to take care of the IT requirements of NSD. The Unit has set up an internal Website to cater to the news requirements of the Regional News Units and others.
The News Services Division is headed by a Director General (News) (PB) who is one of the senior most officer of the Indian Information Service. He is assisted by a team of Additional Directors General (News), Directors (News) and Joint Directors (News).
The different operational wings of NSD at headquarters in Delhi include: General News Room, Hindi News Room, Reporting Unit, Talks Units (English and Hindi), Newsreel Unit, New Format Cell, Indian Language Units, Monitoring Unit, Reference Unit and Administrative Wing.
The Regional News Units in various States are headed by a Joint Director or a News Editor or an Assistant News Editor assisted by Correspondents, Reporters and Newsreaders-cum-Translators.