During his decade-long (1952–62) tenure as minister of Information and Broadcasting, B. V. Keskar spearheaded ambitious reforms to the national radio network, All India Radio. Keskar filled broadcasting hours with classical music programming, inviting musicians trained at renowned academies to perform and record. This essay argues that in the wake of independence, Keskar and his supporters sought to orchestrate a soundscape for the Indian nation through the medium of radio. In their attempts to train the ears of radio audiences and forge citizen-listeners, they also refined the meaning of citizenship in auditory terms. Administrators and broadcasters at AIR, however, assumed that citizen-listeners would be docile. Radio listeners proved the opposite. They protested against AIR’s music broadcasts by writing to magazine and newspaper editorials and by tuning their dials to foreign radio stations, whose broadcasts better suited their musical tastes.
Radio, Citizenship, and the “Sound Standards” of a Newly Independent India
Isabel Huacuja Alonso is an assistant professor in the department of History at California State University San Bernardino. Her forthcoming book about radio broadcasting in colonial India and independent India and Pakistan is tentatively titled “Radio for the Millions: Broadcasting and the Politics of Sound in Modern South Asia.”
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Isabel Huacuja Alonso; Radio, Citizenship, and the “Sound Standards” of a Newly Independent India. Public Culture 1 January 2019; 31 (1): 117–144. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-7181862
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