By: Seram Neken
At 7.30 in the Morning of Wednesday, the 5th of March 2003 was born one of the much-appreciated and beloved babies of Regional News Unit of Akashvani Imphal - ‘Local News Analysis during Morning Bulletin’. The conception of the new-born 10-minute bulletin component of Imphal Radio Station was due to the wisdom of the officers and the hard work of the staff of State’s Regional News Unit under the innovative leadership of the then Deputy Director Shri BB Sharma (Indian Information Service), who was later awarded the ‘Bold and Courageous Reporting Award’ in 2006. The same year, the Regional News Unit of All India Radio Imphal also received the Best Regional News Unit Award for the popularity it gained out of the innovative news formats like the ‘Local News Analysis’, ‘Matamgi Wapham’, ‘PaogiSaktam’ and ‘Letter from Districts’. ‘News Analysis’ during bulletin was indeed the tastiest item in the news menu of Akashvani Imphal.
Manipuris across the globe, particularly those living in far-off places where the newspaper hardcopies could hardly reach in time, appreciated the ‘News Analysis’ format in a jubilant manner. The addition of ‘News Analysis’ during the morning bulletin was really a ‘feather on the cap’ of the Imphal Radio Station. It not only enhanced the quantum of listeners of Radio News, but also boosted the quality of news bulletin to a great extent. Various positive comments with suggestions for improvement poured into the Media Institution through the feedback mechanisms like the ‘Mani Mala ChithiPaokhum’ and ‘Good Morning Manipur’. Newspapers highlighted appreciation notes in their ‘Letters to the Editor’ column. In fact, among the other components of Akashvani Manipuri News, the ‘News Analysis with Experts’ during morning bulletin has been the most popular programme.However, Akashvani Imphal bade adieu to this most averred ‘News Analysis’ very untimely on 31 July 2018 with a sudden announcement from the Regional News Unit of Akashvani Imphal. Millions of Imphal Radio News listeners across the globe now ask as to why such a beautiful programme ceases its airing.
In a 24-hour poll conducted through the social media Facebook by this writer on the topic ‘Abrupt Ceasing of Radio News Analysis of Akashvani Imphal is a challenge to Democracy and People’s Voice. It is better the AIR Imphal resumes this programme in public interest’, 93 percent of netizens support the idea of resumption of this programme, while only 7 percent voted against it.
In Democracy, the media is the only effective bridge between the government and the people. The more freedom the media are provided, the more meaningful will be the representative democracies in this modern world. The incumbent Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi attaches much importance to the Media particularly the Radio, as he occasionally talks with his people from various corners of the country on live interactions via Radio. He not only gives his opinion to the people through the monthly ‘Maan Ki Baat’ programme which started on 3rd October 2014, but also takes feedback from the listeners regularly on various issues of the country. Theoretically, communication, without feedback from the audience, is one-way and not complete. If the adage ‘Democracy is the government of the people, for the people, by the people’ is to be made more operative, then Media should be encouraged to carry people’s voice to their rulers.
Among the other available electronic media in our society today, Radio is the most popular mobile medium which one can listen to even while working in the fields or driving a vehicle. Messages through radio are instantaneous and suitable to both literates and illiterates. Both for programme producers and to the Radio set owners, Radio is inexpensive. Having no topographical limits, Radio programmes have wide reach and accessibility. ‘News Analysis’ of local newspapers during bulletin is a highly valuable format to the rulers as well as to the ruled, as experts and intellectuals analyse a variety of news stories which the Akashvani Imphal can hardly broadcast in its news bulletin for various reasons.
Going down the memory lane, Manipuri Language news bulletin was for the first time broadcast from Guwahati Station in May 1957 with Chandam Gopal as the newsreader. Later, with the opening of AIR Imphal on 15th August 1963, regular news broadcast started on 1st January 1964 with a 15-minute evening bulletin at 7.30 PM. Later, on 4th January, 5-minute Morning Bulletin was introduced at 7.30 AM.
Mr. R. Constantine, a Keralite was the first News Editor and later Mr. Maibam Haricharan became the first Manipuri News Editor. Shri Nabakumar Singh served as the translator cum newsreader during that period. Newsreel entitled “Paogi Saktam” of 15 minutes duration was introduced from January 1964 at 7.45 PM on every Sunday. Five-minute commentary called ‘Matamgee Wapham’ (Spotlight) on a variety of current issues began broadcast on every Tuesday and Thursday of the week. During State Assembly Sessions, a 15-minute Assembly Review entitled ‘Manipur Vidhan Savagi Paodam’ is broadcast by Regional News Unit of AIR Imphal just after Evening Bulletin. From the year 2002, morning bulletin has been extended to 10 minutes. Mid-Day News at 12 noon was launched on 21stJune 2008, thereby making AIR Imphal the first station broadcasting Mid-day news in the entire north east India.
In the early decades of Akashvani Imphal, names of RK Maipaksana, NK Sanajaoba, Lalagopal Singh, Seram Mangi, Bimola Devi and Thoudam Imomacha were familiar to the radio news listeners. Spotlight from the pens of NK Sanajaoba, RK Maipaksana, Seram Mangi Singh and others were acclaimed as thought provoking and appealing to the authorities of those times. Voice of Lalgopal Singh practically monopolized the Radio Newsreel years back. News rendering by Thoudam Imomacha, Bimola Devi and others were appreciated by listeners for clarity and rhythmic. Later on, voices of Ramakanta Sharma, Meghachandra and Hanjabam Priyokumar’s moderating news discussions during morning bulletin are lauded by many. The incumbent head of Regional News Unit of AIR Imphal Dr. A. Ibomcha Sharma (IIS) is also a dynamic newsman with an innovative outlook. During his tenure, internet based rendering of Manipuri Radio News started with introduction of new apps.
News Analysis of main stories published in local dailies of the state with editors of local dailies, experts and intellectuals, which was introduced by AIR Imphal 15 years back, was a very thought provoking programme of this station. Discussions with resourceful experts like Leihaothabam Saratchandra Sharma, Prof. MC Arun, Journalist N Sanatomba, P Ibochouba, WangkhemchaSamjai, Dr. DS Sharma, Editor Hemanta Ningomba, Khogendra Khomdram, Bijoy Kakchingtabam, Ahongsangbam Mobi and others have been indeed inspiring and thought provoking. Whoever is the architect of such a news format would have surely felt the desperation when the programme ceased its broadcast.
Media plays a pivotal role in educating the public and raising the level of political discourse in the society, which are essential for a healthy political process and sound policy making. Discussions with local analysts and policymakers on various social, political and economic issues of the state, if such a spectrum is made available to listeners in an uncensored and coherent manner, will help a lot in creating informed public opinion. Participatory democracy will be more meaningful, if the government encourages the discussions and interactions through media. As the voice of the people is said to be the voice of God, now the people of Manipur particularly the millions of radio listeners wish that the News Analysis programme resumes airing in the larger interest of participatory democracy in Manipur with certain prescribed guidelines so as not to offend norms and ethics of broadcast journalism. As suggested earlier by this writer in previous write-ups, women experts available in the state may also be invited to join the discussion, and time be allotted during evening bulletin to analyze front-page news of evening newspapers.