| 08 Aug 2022
"We would rather use our own local news" - FM players

It's news, but not good news to the FM radio industry in the country. I and B minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi's statement in the Rajya Sabha that the ministry is evaluating TRAI's recommendation that FM be allowed to air news handed out by Doordarshan and All India Radio in phase III has not gone down too well with the players.

TRAI's recommendation that news be allowed to air on private FM channels comes with the clause requiring the stations to take content from AIR, Doordarshan, authorised television channels and authorised news agencies, without substantive changes., which spoke to various players across the country, found that while the industry welcomes the move as a positive step forward, they think otherwise when it comes to refraining from using their own content.
Apurva Purohit

Radio City 91.1 FM CEO and AROI president Apurva Purohit says, "The recommendation of opening up content for private FM is indeed an important step towards recognizing the magnitude of the FM industry in this country. Allowing broadcast of news and current affairs on private FM will open up genres in radio infusing a creative revival in the medium impacting its reach exponentially. It will certainly present a value add to the various services offered by a radio station thus making a considerable contribution towards making Radio a holistic medium."

In- house content available

One of the main reasons stations would not like to rely on the pubcaster's news bulletins is that most are offshoots of other media ventures and would like to use home grown news content. The whole idea of hosting news on the private FM stations differs from station to station and it becomes more important for people who want news at any cost, believes Kerala based Radio Mango programme director Ravi Nair. Almost all the radio stations have their own editorial board and would loathe the idea of using AIR and agency content, like we have Malayalam Manorama.

Anurradha Prasad

B.A.G Films managing director Anurradha Prasad avers that her company has the license to broadcast news and this move by the government places doubts on the authenticity of its content. Prasad adds, News is always welcome, but by not permitting us to air our own news, the government is putting restrictions on us. BAG group holds a license to telecast news and we own a news channel- News 24 and would like to use our in-house content instead of the outsourced content.

Monica Nayyar Patnaik

Adds Oriya station Radio Choklate's director Monica Nayyar Patnaik, Allowing news content would be a good move for the FM stations, but again, there are clauses attached to it which makes it less feasible. Radio Choklate group has its own daily newspaper Sambad and we would like to pull content from there and plug in our radio channels rather than using the content by these agencies. It would help us grab the section of listeners who are interested in listening to news and news related talk shows and debates.

Tarun Katial

Big FM COO Tarun Katial adds, Permitting news is a first step towards liberalisation of content and will add value to the content of radio. However, regarding the source of the news, things have to be worked up between the radio industry and the government and an effective solution has to be derived.

Meow Radio CEO Anil Srivatsa expresses his anguish, "It is ridiculous that the radio stations have an obligation to host only the agency content and will not have a word on it. Permitting news is a good move and look forward to some more clarity in it."

Abraham Thomas

As far as Kerala is concerned, there is a huge population interested in news. "If we view the private FM listenership pattern, it dips when AIR has news on its frequency. So, including news on FM stations will help prevent listeners from shifting to AIR", says Nair.

'Its a welcome move, as it will drive penetration and consumption of the medium and ultimately benefit all the players. But we will have to wait and watch in terms of how the mechanics of this will work out', says Red FM COO Abraham Thomas
Neeraj Chaturvedi

Adds the Delhi station head of Fever FM, Neeraj Chaturvedi, It is a favourable move for the private FM stations as when news is concerned, radio channels seem to be media dark. This is the fist step and eventually the next step should be the government allowing the radio stations to air their own news content. With permission to air self content, there would be most exclusivity and news might become the USP of the radio stations. It would be an added service to the already existing listeners and will also help grab additional listeners.

Viplove Gupte who heads programming at My FM, part of the Bhaskar group with stations in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, has a slightly different take. "The government is stressing on the use of content by AIR and agencies mainly because it is difficult to monitor all the radio stations at the moment but gradually they would permit the radio channels to push in their news content.

"As far as the authorization is concerned, we are positive that the Government will soon realize that we are capable of handling this aspect independently and responsibly. Indeed AROI is working on a self regulatory and monitoring code which we will present soon and allay any concerns", adds Purohit.

Local content

The other pertinent issue that needs to be addressed is the local news that FM will feed on. As Patnaik puts it, With the news to be permitted only sent by AIR and agencies, it would lack local flavour and local issues cannot be addressed. Local FM stations have the capacity to reach out to the small pockets where national news holds no importance.

Prasad supports the thought saying, The main role of radio is to reach out the interiors of places and address local issues there. There is an ambiguity when it comes to source of news as the news sent by AIR and agencies would lack local news.

Commenting if pulling the content from AROI will cost radio stations an extra expenditure, AROI president said, "Once the regulatory aspects on this announcement are clear, I'm sure the radio industry will have clarity on the monetary aspects as well."