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News |  22 Sep 2008 | by AnitaIyer

"We need fresh talent buzzing with new ideas to evangalise radio"

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MUMBAI: The National Radio Meet NRM 2008 organised by the Pune based Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication threw up a lot of pertinent points, with issues debated by some of the leaders of the FM industry in India, on Sunday.

The meet started with the opening session by Radio City CEO and AROI president Apurva Purohit who explained to the assembled students the evolution of radio in India dating back to the introduction of All India Radio in 1935 followed by privatization of air waves in 1993, the Phase I of radio licensing, implications of the Phase II licenses and expectations from the Phase III licenses.

Referring to the coverage of radio over the years, she said, �In the first Phase I, radio covered about 23 per cent of the population, raising to 28 per cent within one year of Phase II and today we stand tall covering almost 50 per cent of the population with 280 FM stations in 85 cities growing at a rate of 40 per cent CAGR....

Red FM COO Abraham Thomas pointed out that radio is not local anymore - with changing technologies, changing consumer wants and desires and competition within the radio spheres and other mediums.

Others panelists in the first session included WorldSpace Satellite Radio managing director M Sebastian and Radio Indigo COO Jayant Bhokare, a session that was moderated by Symbiosis director Prof. Ujjwal K Chowdhury The panel discussed many issues related to radio and answered questions put forth by the students.

Commercialisation

Commenting on the over commercialisation in radio, Sebstain said, The challenge of radio lies in the fact that it has to emotionally attach with the listeners and yet be commercially viable for the advertisers. These are auto mechanisms where you earn ads after developing connect with the audiences....

Thomas added that radio station needs to draw a line and avoid over doing commercials. If the listeners find the ads intrusive or obnoxious it won't take them long to switch to other frequency. Radio is the only medium where the commercials can be weaved creatively in the content and can co-exist at the same time....

However, Bhokare averred, What is the harm with earning revenues out of commercials? Much money has gone into buying the licenses and the radio stations need to recover them and advertising is the sole revenue for radio players....

Talking about the advertising model within his station, Bhokare added, Niche radio stations are no longer niche centric, they have broadened their horizons and are venturing towards being specifically mass. Advertisers pumping in our channels are not necessarily niche and our investor profile comprises a fair number of mass advertisers....

Advertising

Bokhare said, Radio selling is challenging and although we claim to be encroaching the ad space in other mediums, this medium doesn't garner as much profit as the other mediums. However, it cannot be denied that there is a sea change is media selling and with listenership measurements in place the sector is further expected to boom.... Thomas added on saying, The solution lies in creating relevant and competing content teamed up with sensible marketing is the way to make radio global from local....

Talking on the reliability of RAM for measuring listenership, Thomas stated, Electronic measurements are the most accurate measurement but as they are costly, stations based in metros can opt for greater transparency, mid level stations can essentially opt for diary method and smaller ones for day after recall method....

Citing the example of the film Lage raho Munnabhai for promotional activities carried out by radio stations, Sebastian says, We got much better reach for money we invested through this tie-up with the film Lage Raho Munna Bhai. With so many mediums across TV, print and radio it is difficult today to reach out to the right set of target group and so, creativity in packaging comes to the rescue....

Elaborating on creative packing of promotions, Thomas pointed out, We believe in doing on air promotions effectively. We believe in gaining visibility by displaying ads at five different touch points in a day of a listener. The most effective is linking the visibility factor with on air activation and engaging listeners in a multi-fold experience....

Visualising the future of satellite radio, Sebastian said, We have invested about 1.2 million dollars to put up our basic infrastructure. Seamless availability of signals is a major hurdle in reaching out for satellite radio and the problem would be solved by bringing signals terrestrially. Also further liberalization and improvisations in the government regulations will help satellite radio gain momentum in the years to come. With evolution in the technology, geographical barriers would be further demystified....

Session 2

The second session started with veteran anchor Ameen Sayani taking the listeners down the memory lane talking about his nostalgic days of radio. The stalwart recollected the days when he had to produce, write and host a show for a mere Rs.25/-. Reminiscing the good old Radio Ceylon days, Sayani added, Just after my first show on December 1952, I received about 9000 mails from my listeners!...

Sayani stressed on the knowledge of language as an essential factor for being an RJ. Today RJs are essentially using Hinglish for communicating with the listener but of prime importance is to have a knowledge of both Hindi and English language otherwise it would result in miscommunication....

Learn and realize the beauty of language, don't imitate anybody and create an independent identity and personality for yourself was all Sayani had to say to the aspiring RJs.

Nisha Narayanan stressed that there is a need to change the face of radio and based her presentation on four broad parameters, the most important being government mandating their policies. Narayanan discussed the limitations of Phase 2 including its combative approach towards not allowing more than one license in a city, no variety in programming because of lack of news, 15 per cent cap on the total number of licenses owned by one player among others.
Today due to technological advancements, radio is not competing with other radio stations alone. It has competitions from other booming mediums like internet radio, ipods, MP3s, DTH, IPTV etc....

Narayanan encouraged the assembled youth to look further in jobs in the radio sector, beyond RJing. Echoing her thoughts Radio One Vehrnon Ibrahim added, We need fresh talent buzzing with new ideas to evangalise radio as a medium. Our college campus initiative Radio Champs essentially is looking out for youngsters seeking jobs in radio....

Responding to a questions put forth on differential programming, Narayanan explained, Does radio always need to be educate and be informative and if we resort to covering issues like international diplomacy and current affairs what numbers would hear us?... The session concluded with Ibrahim saying optimistically, Ten years from now, India will be a world leader in radio industry....