August 12, 2015
Even as the Coimbatore station of All India Radio (AIR) is gearing up to celebrate its golden jubilee next year, the former Station Director, J. Kamalanathan, recalls the good old days of the radio station which commenced its broadcasting way back in 1966. Those were days when radio was the sole source of entertainment. The programmes aired on Medium Wave band received good patronage from discerning listeners more so from rural pockets.
Kamalanathan, affectionately known as Kamal by his radio fans, started his career at Kovai AIR as announcer. He reveals that the office was initially located at Tatabad in 1967 and was then shifted to Eswaran Koil Street in Kottaimedu area. The transmitter was at Chettipalayam and announcers were taken there for making the announcements. Only a few programmes were recorded at the AIR office in the city.
In the initial years, programmes were broadcast during evening hours between 5.30 PM and 11 PM, and most of them were relay programmes. Only the agriculture-based programmes were broadcast live from Coimbatore AIR, since it catered to farming communities in the districts of Erode, Salem, Nilgiris, and Coimbatore. Later, recording and dubbing facilities were set up at the city office.
Subsequently, Coimbatore AIR got its own building at Ramanathapuram on a spacious area, with two studios – one for music, and the other for talks. Underground cable connections were laid between the station and transmitter at Chettipalayam.
During his days as an announcer, Kamalanathan had the opportunity to interview playback singers like TMS, Sirkali Govindarajan, PB Srinivas, P Suseela, LR Eswari, AL Ragavan, Malaysia Vasudevan, besides music director MSV.
‘Listeners Choice’ of film songs was a super hit programme in those days. AIR used to get bags full of request letters from listeners mostly from rural areas. The 8 PM slot on Sundays had overwhelming response from listeners as they got to hear their favourite songs along with their names being read out. That was the craze those days, he recalled. Likewise, radio-dramas too were very well received. The music section used to broadcast live programmes of both instrumental and vocal music.
Film soundtracks that were broadcast from Chennai AIR every month were relayed by all the stations in Tamil Nadu. These were a huge hit among the listeners. Soon, listeners started to request their choice of films since All India Radio’s very well-maintained archives even now contain an excellent collection of old movie soundtracks. Programme executives were assigned specially for editing the film soundtrack to one hour duration.
Kamal said that after FM Rainbow channel started airing programmes, the primary channel started to lose its sheen as there are hardly any Medium Wave transistor sets these days. However, transmission continues on the primary channel with the support of advertisements. Many part-time announcers and programme staff are manning the stations, with just a few permanent employees.