| 05 Jul 2022
A reinvention of sound could be on the horizon for private FM

MUMBAI: With radio operators being given permission to carry news bulletins from All India Radio, everyone has been left wondering if news on private FM will now sound like AIR or like the dramatic TV news sagas. Then again, radio stations could also create their very own style, if allowed. Only time will tell what is in store, but until then radio networks are chalking down ways to implement news in a more effective way.

The change in power from UPA to a BJP-led government, and the appointment of MIB minister Prakash Javadekar, confirmed Private FM stations will be allowed to air news from sources like AIR and PTI. The Union Minister also added that FM RJs will be allowed to read news; a statement that was followed by mixed views.

"The point here is that the policy will not revolutionise radio; we are not jumping with joy that we can carry news from AIR and PTI. The question here is, do we want to air news or concentrate on our core competence," said Radio Mirchi programming head Akash Banerjee. He went on to compare the two mediums stating, "RJs are much more mature than TV news channel anchors." Banerjee’s statement stems from the fact that he has worked in both, television and radio. But he is of the view that limiting the news sources will help radio from making mistakes which TV channels have made in the past.

RJs have started thinking up ways to make news interesting on radio. Red FM's RJ Raunac who was previously with AIR as a news presenter said, "The news presentation would be quirky and we might dramatise radio just like TV channels. The presentation would be different and interesting." Raunac stated that with news sources like AIR and PTI, radio stations can be active on the creative front on how to present news. "The authenticity attached to sources will help listeners see radio stations in a different light," he added.

Echoing his view, Radio Mirchi’s RJ Sayema also believes that it will add variety to radio stations and will help present news in a friendly manner, as compared to other mediums. "I am excited about the fact that RJs can present news. It will provide RJs with more opportunities to participate in concepts that they were not a part of before. It will also add more relevant information to the programme," she said.

Praising the news policy, Chennai Live COO Prem Kumar said, "How long can radio stations continue doing slapstick comedy? It is important that RJs are allowed to talk more relevant content than just regular talk." The news element is good news for talk-show based radio stations like Chennai Live which cover topics of daily concern. But for infotainment based radio stations, it would be an additional element to their radio channels. Kumar added, "For us there will not be much change. The reason is that we are news centric in some way. We declared ourselves as talk radio long ago, but with the new development, we will be more proactive now. There will be no more delays in our talk show and we can give listeners news as and when it happens."

The question for any infotainment based radio station or network (should they add the news element) will be, will it get new listeners or lose the existing ones. "Today, if Radio Mirchi says that we have done ten years of music and now I want to do news, can we sustain ourselves as a radio station? The answer would be 'no' as the licensing fee is too high. But in Phase III when owning and running radio stations will become cheaper, it would be easier to sustain," said Banerjee.

The private FM industry in India is still young in comparison to radio stations in western countries. The clarity for radio news polices in the west have come from years of understanding. It means that the radio industry in India will probably have to go through a trial and error method before making radio a viable medium for news.