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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII No. 14, November 1-15, 2012
Our Readers Write

75 years of AIR Madras that's Chennai

Radio is one of the most powerful means of communicatin in the modern world. Thanks to the investigation by Marconi, the first ever regular broadcasting station in the world came into being in Pittsburgh, USA, in 1920. The first radio programme, however, was broadcast by Marconi Company from Chemsford in England on February 23, 1920. This led to the formation of the Madras Presidency Radio Club on May 16, 1924, with Lord Goschen as its Patron, but a formal broadcasting service started in Madras only on July 31, 1924. Subsequently, the Corporation of Madras, taking over the Club, started broadcasting on April 1, 1930.

This service rendered by the Madras Corporation continued till June 16, 1938, that historic day when All India Radio, Madras, started broadcasintg. The name was coined by Lionel Fielden, then the Controller of Broadcasting, in June 1936, reflecting the poetic vision of Shelley's celebrated poem 'Lines to An Indian Air'. The Station was inaugurated by Lord Erskine, the then Governor of what was Madras Province. Regular transmissions began from its studio building at Marshalls' Road, Egmore, with a 250 W Medium Wave transmitter. Later, a 10 KW Philips Short Wave transmitter was commissioned in Guindy. To relay news and other important programmes, a Receiving Centre was established at Ennore.

In the old days, there were no tape recorders and programmes were recorded on graphite discs using a 'Presto I.D.' cutter with great effort and concentration both by artistes and engineers. Many of the present- day top grade artistes used to wait on the lawns of the studios for hours together for the audition and the recording crew to arrive. There was no grumbling from either the artistes or the AIR staff, as everyone was very deeply involved in broadcasting. People used to assemble at Tilagar Ghat on the Marina beach to listen to radio, and owning a radio was considered a status symbol in those days. There were homes where the radio was never switched off, even when everyone was asleep!

AIR shifted from Egmore to Marina Beach Road in July 1954 where the most modern studios and 1 KW MW Collins transmitter was commissioned.

In January 1956, a 20 KW MW transmitter was additionally commissioned at Avadi.

The concept of entertainment progammes in AIR became a reality in October 1957 with the starting of the Vividh Bharathi service using a 100 KW transmitter. The South East Asian Service was started in February 1957 with a Marconi 100 KW short wave transmitter installed at Avadi. Madras was then considered as having the best transmitters in the world.

From the late 1960s, there was a variety of new programmes, such as University of AIR in 1966, Family Welfare Programme in 1967, Youth programme in Tamil and -English in 1970, a daily sports service in 1972, choral groups in 1973, Vadya Vrinda in 1975, Science Cell in 1976 and a full-fledged Farm and Home unit in 1977.

In the meantime, AIR Trichy, then AIR Tirunelveli and AIR Coimbatore came into being and these stations were linked to AIR Madras by coaxial line for relay of Madras programmes and news.

The first non-local radio station in the country was inaugurated in Nagercoil on October 30, 1984 by Gulam Nabi Azad, the then I & B Minister. That was just the day before the brutal assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The country's first ever regular FM service was inaugurated at AIR Madras at its premises on July 23 1977 with the commissioning of a 3 KW FM transmitter supplied by Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bangalore.

The relay quality of broadcast of news and other programmes got better with the launch of INSAT 1-B and RN (Radio Networking) terminal installation in 1984.

The primary coverge of AIR Madras improved with the commissioning of 2x100 KW MW transmitter at Avadi.

The FM service got an impetus with the commissioning of FM Gold and FM Rainbow.

When the Indian Republic was just nine years old, All India Radio started television transmission in Delhi in 1959. With the formation of Doordarshan India, TV broadcasts got a boost with transmissions in Bombay inaugurated in 1972 and from Madras and Calcutta in 1975. August 15, 1975 was a red-letter day for the people of Madras as they saw the birth of TV broadcasting in Tamil Nadu. On July 4, 1976, a 175- metre tall TV tower was commissioned, improving the coverage area to 80 KM from 20 KM, extending upto Madurantakam and Arakkonam. Along with that, a morning transmission on Sundays was added to the existing 3½ hours' transmission.

Doordarshan Madras moved to colour on August 15, 1982 with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi addressing the nation. Programmes focussing on national culture, current affairs, news, science and cultural magazines, etc. were telecast besides local programmes.

January 15, 1987 was yet another milestone in the history of Doordarshan in Tamil Nadu with the commissioning of Kodaikanal High Power TV transmitter covering about 150 km, i.e. the entire southern Tamil Nadu. The TV set started finding a honourable place in every home, thereby introducing a new culture of not even welcoming guests/relatives, when B.R. Chopra's Maha Bharath, the first mega TV serial, was telecast on Sunday mornings.

The TV network got expanded, with the commissioning of 59 lower power transmitters, 7 VLPTs, besides one transpose, to all important towns like Tirunelveli, Yercaud, Trichy, Vellore, etc.

V. Appakutty
Rtd. Chief Engineer
SZ-AIR and Doordarshan

Shift the capital – 1

Kudos to P. Sabanayagam for rekindling the visionary idea of shifting Tamil Nadu capital from Madras to the middle of the State (MM, October 1st). Had the pet idea of MGR been implemented, we would not have such a sorry state of affairs in Madras today. Early action will be greatly appreciated by future generations!

N.P. Andavan

Shift the capital – 2

The article 'Help people, Shift the Capital' by P. Sabanayagam is a thought-provoking one. I quite agree with his idea for shifting of the capital to Trichy. MGR also had the same view. Unfortunately it has not materialised.

As an alternative, if places around city limits are improved to create a greater Madras, it may be a welcome decision.

P.A. Ranganathan
16/24, Vedachala Garden
Mandaveli, Chennai 600 028

A builder's values

E. Sreedharan, that 'builder of Modern India' (MM, October 1st), might have had just a Civil Engineering degree from the Government Engineering College, Kakinada (known as JNTU), but he has several feathers in his cap after having qualified for the Indian Railways' senior citizen quota. Yet, he is not still ready to confine himself to four walls of a cosy home.

He is on the advisory board of the Foundation for the Restoration of National Values, which has members like business tycoon Ratan Tata. The Foundation aims to "bring good values in all areas of national life, to cleanse corruption in high places," says Sreedharan.

The awards and accolades he has received only reflect the quality of engineering education in his days and the value system it inculcated.

Why is it that we do not have enough Sreedharans, though every year India produces, on an average, 750,000 engineers?

Raghavendran S.

A correction

I refer to the excellent write-up on my book, but I'd like to correct one error.

I had no house in N.H. Road or anywhere else and M.O. Mathai lived upstairs in his own house in the stated neighbourhood, with his niece and family occupying the ground floor.

K.R.N. Menon

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In this Issue

'Save this landmark building'
Why is our city 'Sink'ara Chennai?
For Metro Rail success a ring line is needed
Enjoying life with Nana
The national treasure that was M. Krishnan
A Vijayanagara-Chennai connection
'Munro' arrives in Madras
We regret...

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan


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