Friday, April 07, 2017

Vatican Radio's English shortwave broadcast to Asia comes to an end

Vatican Radio's English shortwave broadcast for Asia has come to an end, with its last transmission going out Friday evening, after nearly 60 years of service. However this does not mean it has disappeared altogether.

What ultimately closed on March 24 as Vatican Radio's English Service for Asia, is however very much alive online on Vatican Radio's website. The gradual phasing out of Vatican Radio's shortwave frequencies is seen as part of the reform of the Roman Curia or the central administration of the Catholic Church here in the Vatican, called for by Pope Francis. The Pope established the new dicastery or office of the Secretariat for Communications on June 27, 2015, bringing 9 media bodies of the Vatican, including Vatican Radio, under the Secretariat's direction, with the purpose of overhauling, streamlining and ultimately merging them as a cohesive unit.

What ended on March 24 as Vatican Radio's English Service for Asia began way back in 1958. The only English programme of Vatican Radio then, headed by Jesuit Father Thomas O'Donnell, was repeated a number of times in different directions, including towards Africa and South Asia. It was a weekly 10-minute news broadcast for India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

However, the need for special programmes adapted to the distinctive cultural needs and tastes of Africa and South Asia gave way to independent  programs for these two regions. In 1964 South Asia got a boost when Pope Paul VI visited Bombay (today Mumbai), India for the 38th International Eucharistic Congress from 2nd to 5th of December. Hence in May 1965, the Indian Section officially came into being with a 10-minute broadcast twice a week each in the evening in Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam, while English went on air daily Monday through Saturday. In 1982, all the four languages began re-broadcasting their evening programmes the following morning. Three years later - on May 12, 1985, the Malayalam program got extra airing time, broadcasting for 15 minutes in the morning, whereas the rest continued broadcasting for 10 minutes.

In 1986, Pope John Paul II visited India from January 31 to February 11. Just prior to this visit, on January 7th that year, Hindi, Tamil and English were given extra time, and so all the four languages began broadcasting daily for 15 minutes each, in the morning, which was a feature program.

The evening transmission consisted of 6 minutes of news only. By the end of 1986 the evening 6-minute news increased to 10 minutes and was repeated the following morning.

On March 25, 1990, Hindi, Tamil Malayalam and English began broadcasting
for 15 minutes each, repeating it the following morning. And from Sept. 23, 1993, the four languages were transmitting for nearly 20 minutes each, repeating the evening program twice the following morning.

It was on Oct 24, 1993 that the fifth language, Urdu, that is spoken mainly in Pakistan but is also widely followed in India, especially in the north, was added to the Indian Section. It began with a 7-minute Sunday program, as part of the Hindi program. On March 30, 2003 Urdu became a stand-alone program, broadcasting for 15-minutes on Sundays and Wednesdays, and repeated the following mornings.

The Urdu program however closed down in September, 2013, after nearly 20
years of service. On May 16, 2015, Vatican Radio marked the 50th anniversary of its Indian programs with a Holy Mass and a reception.
(via Mike Terry-UK/(WWDXC Top Nx 06 April)