Radio days

Radio remains a relevant source of information and entertainment for many

Radio days


very year, World Radio Day is celebrated on February 13. The theme for this year is Radio and Peace. Radio remains a widely consumed medium and can therefore help shape society’s experiences by offering a variety of programmes and perspectives. Historically, radio played an interesting role in providing information, challenging discourse and entertaining masses long before television and social media’s takeover. Radio Pakistan remains a respected institution and deserves to be celebrated for its tenacity and years of providing the Pakistani public with news, education and entertainment.

At the time of independence, Pakistan had three radio stations, located at Dhaka, Lahore and Peshawar. There are 36 radio stations in the country now. In October 1998, Radio Pakistan began FM transmissions in the country’s largest cities. That was the second phase of the radio revolution in Pakistan.

The first medium-wave radio station was installed in Lahore on December 16, 1937, in a small room of the YMCA building. It was inaugurated by the then governor, Bert Emerson. The first announcement was made by Malik Haseeb. Later an elaborate radio station was set up in a rented building owned by Fazal Hussain at the back of the Governor’s House. For the installation of a five-kilowatt transmitter, a site near Manawan village was selected, away from city noise. It had an extensive range, covering the cities of Amritsar and Jalandhar. The new radio station was inaugurated with a speech written by Allama Iqbal and read by Abdul Majeed Salik, as the Poet of the East was too unwell to read it out on air. This was followed by a qawwali sung by Mubarak Ali and Fateh Ali Khan and a speech by Mian Mohammad Bakhsh Muslim. The news was broadcast from Delhi.

In the early days of Radio Lahore, there was a single daily transmission. It used to run in the evening. Its airtime comprised 80 percent of music segments, with 20 percent allocated to programmes for country dwellers, children and women. Later, it expanded the service to three transmissions a day. Film songs, ghazals, dramas and feature programmes, including Talqeen Shah and Jamhoor di Awaz were very well-received amongst various segments of the society. These programs received a great response through hundreds and thousands of letters and phone calls.

Radio drama was always popular. Lahore Radio Station boasted the most prominent playwrights, including Imtiaz Ali Taj, Rafi Peer, Abid Ali Abid, Ashfaq Ahmad, Bano Qudsia, Saleem Chushti, Nawaz, Jameel Malik, Mirza Adeeb and Kamal Ahmad Rizvi. The plays were performed by some of the most talented artists, admired and appreciated by listeners, including Aqeel Ahmad, Iffat Inaam, Mohni Hameed, Naeem Tahir and Sultan Khoosat. Radio Lahore was shifted to its present building in 1965.

Back in the day, radio was what people tuned to, listened to and followed. Entire families would sit around this magical box and keenly listen to their favourite programmes, including dramas, music and radio shows. Those were the days when radio artists, writers, singers and presenters were the superstars. Radio educated people and played a pivotal role in shaping their minds. On the other hand, radio Lahore brought a Green Revolution in the country’s agricultural growth and development by producing valuable programmes in Urdu and Punjabi.

Radio Lahore has always been a cultural and literary hub of the city. It worked as a nursery for PTV during the latter’s early days. It played the same role as the Film Institute, Pune, had done for the Indian film industry. A galaxy of renowned music composers, creators, singers, writers and artists have always frequented the premises.

From the mid-50s to mid-60s, Radio Lahore was at the peak of its popularity and success, not only because of the lack of a competitive medium or education, entertainment and information source but also because of its smooth working and the choices of its listeners. The Lahore Radio Station has also been a favourite place for writers to get together and hold discussions. For years, like Pak Tea House, it was a second home for many writers and artists. This was an era of cultural rebirth in the city.

Radio is a powerful medium of instant communication available to everyone, everywhere and reaches 80 percent of the country’s area and 96.5 percent of the population. It usually devotes half of its air time to news, commentary, information and education slots; the rest is set apart for entertainment (sports, drama and music).

Nowadays, while social and mass media are in full drive, the importance of radio networks, particularly FM channels, cannot be underplayed. The FM channels have brought a revolution in radio listening. Almost everyone has a radio set in one’s pocket in the form of a cell phone. To cater to the need for current information and entertainment openings, Radio Pakistan Lahore has also launched various FM channels and coupled its Medium Wave 630 kilohertz to FM 93. The present PBC director general, has taken several innovative steps, keeping in account people’s interest in various games and sports events. These include the launch of FM 94, an inclusive radio Sports Channel to cover all sports events in Pakistan by broadcasting running commentary, interviews with sportspeople, news, discussions and other sequences. A dedicated music channel has also been set up to feature the up and coming singers.

During the 1965 war, Lahore radio played a major role. National songs and war anthems were played regularly to boost the soldiers’ morale. During the 17 days of the September war, 72 national and war songs were written, composed, sung and broadcast.

The writer is a playwright and freelance journalist. He can be reached at and his blogging site:

Radio days