Renu Ramanath, The Hindu
Commercial Broadcasting Station now functions just as a relay centre
# Memorandum to start independent commercial broadcasting submitted
# Even relay from Thiruvananthapuram is only part-time
# Station not generating revenue
# Facilities at station remain under-utilised
Kochi: The demand to start Malayalam transmission from the ten-year-old Commercial Broadcasting Station at the Kochi FM Station is gaining momentum again.
The 107.25 mH Commercial Broadcasting Station (CBS), which was formally inaugurated in February 1996 by the late P.M. Sayeed, the then Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, has remained under-utilised.
The All Kerala Radio Listeners Association, which represents the listeners of the radio stations in the State, has been making continuous requests to utilise the full capacity of the CBS.
The association has approached various officials and submitted memorandums both for starting independent commercial broadcasting from Kochi with Malayalam content as well as for relaying the Malayalam programmes broadcast by the CBS from Thiruvananthapuram.
The station, which was set up at an expenditure of Rs.2.26 crores, is not yet generating any income in the absence of independent broadcasting.
The CBS, which is the second FM stereo station in south India, functions just as a relay centre, that too not full time.
The morning and evening transmissions of the Vividh Bharati Commercial Broadcasting Service from Mumbai are just relayed by the technical staff part-time. For the rest of the day the station remains closed.
Relay time cut
Earlier, the station used to relay programmes continuously for 23 hours, but of late, the relay time has been slashed, doing away with the daytime transmission.
The association points out that Vividh Bharati is the only service that will make Hindi programmes available for the north Indian population living in and around Kochi, especially those working in the Navy, Railways and other Central Government organisations. Both Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode stations broadcast Vividh Bharati continuously from 6 a.m. till 11 p.m., with a mix of Hindi and Malayalam programmes.
Lack of staff
The listeners association is worried that the costly equipment for FM stereo transmission at the Kochi CBS might get damaged in the absence of full utilisation and proper maintenance. The main reason for the neglect of the CBS is said to be the lack of adequate staff. Though decisions have been made time and again on appointing more staff for the CBS, none have come through so far.
In 1997, the Union Finance Ministry had decided to give approval for the creation of ten more posts of programme and technical staff at Kochi FM station, but no follow-up has taken place after that.
The association is demanding that even if appointing more staff is not possible at present, the authorities can at least relay the Vividh Bharati programmes from Thiruvananthapuram, including the Malayalam content. However, though the AIR authorities have considered this suggestion, it has not yet materialised so far.
The CBS has power of 4.5 x 2 kH. It has 80 per cent more reach than the main FM station in Kochi, which has a reach of 60 km with 2 x 3 kH. Once the CBS starts functioning at full capacity, almost nine districts in the State will be covered.