| 18 May 2022
Nisha Narayanan's opinion on the need for news on FM

RED FM COO Nisha Narayanan gives her opinion to on lifting the government monopoly on broadcast of news over radio.

MUMBAI: “Government considering to lift ban from news on private and community radio stations is a step in the right direction. It is high time we re-looked at the rules that bar private FM radio channels from broadcasting news and current affairs. Radio, being the most accessible medium, is in fact the most suitable for mass dissemination of news and information. Indian FM stations are an anomaly in that none of the private radio stations in the USA, Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Australia or most of the countries of the world are barred from airing news and related content.

News and current affairs are the most relevant when they are localised, so as to suit the requirements of a particular community, city, town or village.

It therefore makes sense to de-regulate the Indian radio industry, as opposed to the restrictive Phase III guidelines that allow private FM radio only to re-broadcast the news bulletins of All India Radio without any addition or modification. Surely, the 36 news generating units of AIR cannot cater to the local news requirements of over 200 cities that private radio is expected to cover in Phase III.

We, at RED FM, have ourselves experienced how radio rises to the occasion during a crisis. During the days of cyclone Phailin, amidst power cuts, fear, uncertainty and a complete communication breakdown, our radio stations were connecting with the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the Chief Minister of Orissa and other authorities to broadcast vital information to the public.

In calamities like these and even otherwise, radio, with the highest reach, is the most reliable and powerful medium for disseminating news. And since the major stakeholders of most FM networks in India are media houses that also have print publications and/ or TV news channels, they not only have a better chance of achieving synergies in news gathering but also of doing so conscientiously and responsibly.

At a time when all other media are free to broadcast news, including the digital medium where we see numerous news portals emerging every day, radio should also be evangelised a people’s medium, and not just limited to entertainment. The regulations that are holding back radio from reaching its full potential should be re-examined.”