| 13 Jul 2024
Science and Maths of Radio explained by Amit Naredi, MY FM Regional Business Head (West)

MUMBAI: Hailed as one of the oldest mediums of mass communication, Radio had almost extinguished from Indian media industry in seventies and eighties with the advent of the then newer medium, TV. But, the world’s third largest communication medium bounced back in a newer avatar in early 2000 as government re-opened it by giving licenses to FM Radio networks at the advent of 21st century.

Being a relatively newer medium with a lower base, radio has consistently grown at a decent double digit growth since its rebirth, but it deserves a much faster exponential growth. The reason for this exponential growth can be explained from the science and maths of Radio as a medium.

The Science of Radio Communication

For ages, the only means of communication among living beings has been audio communication. In fact except humans, all living beings communicate only through audio messaging. Among human beings also, until 3000 years ago, the only mode of communication was audio/verbal. Thus the natural form of communication for any living beings is audio only.

Whenever, we communicate through speech/audio mode, the effect of message is decided not only by the spoken words but also by the pitch, tonality, effects and speed of the communication. Same word spoken in different ways might have an altogether different meaning and emotional impact.

Whenever we listen to any voice/sound, a chemical called dopamine, present in our neurons, acts as a neurotransmitter. This is released in our brains and leads to an emotional effect on us viz. excitement, happiness, fear, tension, anger, Love etc. This chemical - dopamine makes audio (radio) communication an effective form of mass communication.

We can relate this with following facts

-          A horror movie will not have any impact if its sound is muted.

-          A song will not attract us if its sound is muted even if it has best of the visuals, but any song heard, even with closed eyes, will always have an impact on our mood.

-          Any word written on a piece of paper will just have its dictionary meaning but the same word, communicated in different pitch/tonality, may have a completely different impact on the listeners.

The advent of radio in a new avatar has used this science to further increase efficacy of communication. RJs are trained to talk, while keeping in mind that one of his listeners is sitting next to him. Hence, the diction, tonality, pitch of an RJ is such that whenever one listens to any RJ, on any radio station, he/she relates to the radio jockey and feels as if the RJ is talking to him/her directly (mainly due to emotional connect). Hence, the communication skills of an RJ have a strong impact. Additionally, most of the RJs talk about local issues/topics, which further increases interest of the listeners. Thus, radio creates a personal connect with the listeners owing to the stronger impact of its style of communication. It therefore stands out among any TV show or newspaper as, in either case, people do not connect, with the content of both these mediums, on a personal level.

Maths of Radio Communication

To understand the maths of radio communication, glancing through the benefits as well as limitations of this medium, and rules imposed by the government, is must.

Benefits of Radio

One time cost - Radio sets have a zero/little onetime cost.

Recurring Cost - No monthly subscription required unlike newspaper or TV.

Literacy - The medium of entertainment doesn’t require one to be literate and caters to illiterates also.

On the Go Medium - Radio is accessible to listeners throughout the day, even during media dark morning drive time and afternoon hours. For an advertiser, radio is the only medium that has a potential to communicate message of any brand/offer exactly at the time of purchase.

Other Benefits of Radio

  • It is Hyperlocal and one of the cheapest medium of communication.
  • An effective medium of communication and hence will give great results to advertisers including local retailers.

Both these benefits will attract millions of retailers and SME clients to advertise and consider radio as a medium for their communication. SME/retailers advertisers, who don’t in newspapers due to high cost, potential of risk of yellow journalism from unorganised newspapers, initial cost of making advertisement etc., will get attracted to radio, which is a cheaper medium.

Hence, opening advertising opportunities in Radio as a medium is bound to change the overall landscape of advertising in India.

The Government of India and Limitations of Radio Industry

  • Due to government regulations, in India only one format of radio is allowed i.e. music. But, internationally, there are several formats available viz. Music, Talk show, Sports, Devotional, News, Political.
  • In India Sports, News and political content are not allowed.
  • Talk shows and devotional are not feasible since radio stations have high cost of acquisition and talk shows and devotional content might not generate the kind of advertising revenue to make it viable. Hence, these options are also ruled out.
  • In US, there are about 12000 radio stations catering to at least 15 genres (various music genres/ talk shows/Sports/News/Political etc) and generate an annual ad revenue of about $ 15 billion. The scenario is contradictory in India, as there are little more than 500 radio stations, generating a total revenue less than Rs. 2500 crores ($ 0.35 billion).

Lack of a measurement currency

Another limitation of radio industry is the lack of a measurement currency. National advertiser plan their media spends on the basis of certain data of reach and not on gut feeling or assumption. While Newspaper planning is done on the basis of Indian Readership survey, TV planning is based on BARC survey. But there is no such specific data available for the advertisers to plan their radio campaign and to evaluate its reach and impact. This forces them to play safer and refrains them in allocating bigger monies to radio.

Scope of growth

If government does away with the entry barrier and opens radio medium, the advertising revenue, from radio, might jump to 10,000 crores in next five years. This will lead to GST revenue of at least Rs. 1800 crore/year, which is more than one time revenue generated by the govt of India in giving licenses to radio stations.

Also thousands of newer radio stations will give direct employment to at least one lakh people and almost equal number of people indirectly.


We need following two developments in radio industry

- If Government opens Radio industry from licensing of acquisition and content, India will have almost 4-5k radio stations catering to various TGs.

- Industry to have currency to measure the reach and impact of radio advertising.

With these two developments, we can expect radio industry to become a Rs. 10000 crore industry (from mere Rs. 2500 crore industry, it is today) in next five years and, therefore, making radio as powerful as the digital industry that flourished in the last five years.