The answer could invariably be ‘yes’. But they would claim that radio is more (viable) than TV. A TV can show only one image at a time, but radio gives a listener a unique opportunity to imagine in multiple ways. I believe that an age of a person is different from the voice-age of an individual. Take for instance, playback singers like Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhonsle. Radio sound leads to imagination, but here I am not talking about it.
What I am able to see as a commentator, everyone could have access to that image in real time even if one is located in a remote area. IT has made it much easier and you can stream the scene visible to you to others through your cell-phone. I am talking about a 30 rupees Chinese transistor in a remote location from Delhi which gives the listener an opportunity to watch something in real time from his own place.
A programme called ‘Sky watching’ or Akash Darshan which was thought of in the 80’s became an overnight success. Every new moon day when the sky is completely dark, you can see the stars and planets in the absence of the brightness of the moon. If a commentator describes them through the radio, a listener could watch the sky and see for himself. Radio actually provides the largest screen TV. While it provides us with the opportunity of learning about basic astronomy, it also makes one feel how small he/she is in the universe and helps them us get over our ego. Thus Radio is both participatory and also interactive.
Let us extend the concept to eclipses. I remember in the early 80’s when there was a total solar eclipse, the radio and TV asked people to stay indoors, not to eat anything and refrain from seeing the sky with a naked eye. In order to make them stay at home, the Government ordered the screening of the most popular Bollywood film ‘Sholay’ with two intermissions.
But in 1996, when the country had another total solar eclipse, the mood was different. Doordarshan was telecasting live from Neemrana in Rajasthan, Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh and also from Diamond Harbour in Kolkata. Radio was broadcasting a live commentary and also asked people to watch the eclipse using darkened glasses. So many scientific facts were brought about which helped in erasing a lot of superstitious and fictitious beliefs.
But when the same concept was used to describe ‘Halleys comet’ it was radio which was more successful than the TV. There are so many disbeliefs regarding appearance of comets in the sky and the impending disasters for the rulers and kings.
People used to believe that comets bring sorrow to their homes. By asking them to come out and watch the comet with naked eye followed by the radio commentary was really an innovative idea. As an incentive to listeners, some questions were also asked and those who gave correct answers were invited at radio’s cost to witness the same comet through one of the biggest telescopes in Asia at Kavalur in Tamilnadu. This created such a curiosity that more than a million listeners replied to the questions asked by All India Radio, Chennai in the year 1986.
My view is that Radio is a better tool in eradicating the superstitions rooted deep in the people, provided the producers adopt innovative ideas and make participatory, interactive, incentive driven programmes.