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News on Phone

News on Phone or NOP is a programme run by News Services Division of All India Radio. Here a news reader gets recorded top headlines of every hour. This can be heard by calling to a number given on newsonair.nic.in. It was a very innovative programme to provide news on demand when it started in 1998 . But its relevance in 2016 can be questioned.

I was assigned to work on NOP as an editor. I prepared 11 am hourly news and got this recorded. Then I thought to listen to my first ever work of editorship. So, I took out my cellphone and tried to call to 011-23324343/1259,  number for the Delhi callers. But to my surprise I was not able to reach to this number. Then I asked my Editor-in-Chief about this issue. To my greatest surprise I came to know that this given number can be reached only through a land line number. Meaning only those people who own a land line number can call to AIR to listen NOP.

This was just beginning of many surprises which I got know about this strange NOP programme. In the age of Radio, TVs, and increasing penetration of mobile and internet which mostly provide news free, calling a paid number to listen to news, that too which may not be of your interest, is kind of hilarious. Callers are not charged at normal rate but the premium charges are applied.

This all made me wonder: Who would call and pay to listen to NOP? Well this time I was not surprised, because it came to my notice that very few people call to this number which I expected. So, just like me you would be also wondering why this is still continuing where one editor and one news reader has to be assigned the task of this  NOP 24 hours a day, news reader of course will read news every hour taking just one minute. But editor has to keep an eye for any breaking news of that hour.

So clearly it is utter wastage of time and resource. But why it is still continued, you would be wondering? I learned that it is continuing not because people have not tried to discontinue it but because of complexity of plan and non-plan expenditure. In anyway, I prepare a proposal to discontinue or at least merge this NOP with hourly bulletin which get aired every hour for five minutes.

This proposal was well taken by seniors and they appreciated me for that. They added my proposal which was more data driven (number of mobile connections and landline connections) and few step-wise solution to make NOP relevant or reduce the resources spend on NOP exclusively. For example I suggested to allow call from Mobiles too at same premium charges. Next step would be to discontinue premium charges. If possible merge it with news bulletin. And finally, if possible abolish it given there is a service like free SMS service.