Free SMS news service launched by All India Radio

On Monday, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari launched All India Radio’s free SMS news service, providing news updates, for subscribers.

The service which started as a pilot project 6 months ago and has 200,000 subscribers was officially launched to the public on Monday, with plans to increase the number of subscribers to 500,000 by the end of the month, reports The New Indian Express. Upon subscription, All India Radio will send both free news and even public utility messages, to all registered subscribers.

To subscribe, all mobile users need to do is SMS ‘AIRNEWS’ <space> ‘their name’ to 08082080820 or give a missed call to the same number. All India Radio plans to recover the costs of sending the free messages from the departments and ministries who want to use their service to send messages.

A novel idea, but it appears to be more geared for Indian government messages instead, if you ask me. Most users have smartphones where they can easily access mobile versions of their favorite daily newspapers online anyways. Furthermore, there is a limit to how much textual information can be sent per text message. Finally, and here’s the real question: how many messages would be sent to subscribers each day?

I haven't heard of any other local Indian radio stations in New Delhi offering similar news services, and perhaps it's because they know that this isn't really a modern day solution to delivering news and updates, especially to mobile devices. By the same token, All India Radio is one of the oldest and recognized Indian radio station groups across India, and as such, their priorities are different.

While urban Indians are comfortable and content accessing news on the go on their mobile devices, this is not the case in rural India. Hence, rural India would most likely benefit the most from this messaging system.

I simply feel this will be another platform for political parties to hit the airwaves, but in a different format, in the upcoming months leading to India's 2014 federal elections. One would assume social media is a better platform, but then again, not everyone has a Facebook or Twitter account in India. And again, in rural India, political parties can gain strength in numbers by sending out their messages via SMS instead.

As for me, I wouldn't sign up for this service as I'd expect to be bombarded with SMS's all day long. Sorry, I'd rather read the news online at my favorite sites and at my convenience.