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FICCI Frames 2008: Radio still trying to rock on non-music content

By , agencyfaqs!, Mumbai | In Media | March 27, 2008
On the second day of FICCI Frames 2008, radio and its future was discussed by an eminent panel comprising the big daddies of radio and telecom, with Anil Wanwari, CEO,, moderating the session

Last & #BANNER1 & # year's FICCI Frames had a couple of sessions on radio, but this year, there was just one. And the panel for the lone radio session expressed its dissatisfaction over the situation. The panel comprised Ashit Kukian, national head for sales at Radio City; Anil Srivatsa, chief operating officer, Radio Today; Prashant Panday, chief executive officer, Radio Mirchi; Pankaj Sethi, president, value added services and enterprise market, Tata Teleservices; David Astley, secretary general, Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union; Abraham Thomas, CEO, Red FM; and Anil Wanwari, CEO, Wanwari moderated the session.

Prashant Panday talked about his experiences in the radio industry and how the industry has changed. He called radio a 13 per cent medium, and said that the radio industry was proud of being so even though 13 is often looked upon as an unlucky figure.

Prashant Panday

David Astley

Abraham Thomas

Pankaj Sethi

Anil Srivatsa

Ashit Kukian

Anil Wanwari
He listed five things to remember about the radio industry: the radio industry has grown at a rapid rate covering many towns; radio is not a rural or boring product meant for those who do not have electricity, but is instead a very upmarket, urban medium that is consumed by the average urban person for about two hours every day; radio is a terrestrial medium that is being used to advertise products throughout towns; the best of radio is yet to come, and this will happen only when all the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) amendments come into force; and despite the rosy picture, viability is still a problem for the radio industry.

David Astley made a presentation on how the new emerging private broadcasters need to recognise their social responsibility, taking their cue from the social awareness programmes that have always been a part of All India Radio (AIR). With the emergence of the private broadcasters, there has been tremendous segmentation in AIR's audience. This means that AIR no longer reaches out to a very important chunk of its target listeners with its educational and social development programming.

"Private stations have an obligation towards the audience that has drifted away from AIR," he said. He added, "I don't mean that private broadcasters should air shows on public social awareness for hours, but they should devote some of their resources to these social issues."

The simplicity of producing and accessing radio was the focus point of Abraham Thomas' presentation. He spoke of out of home radio getting bigger in the future because the number of mobile handsets with FM radio is increasing by the day. "Few radio players have managed to create a brand for themselves," he said.

Radio has moved from being a passive medium to being an active and interactive medium, which is further striving to become an embedded brand. Abraham responded to Astley's comment that private broadcasters need to do their bit in promoting social awareness by recounting instances during floods and traffic jams when FM radio has played a significant role as communicator. "Radio has become socially responsible," said Thomas.

Being a member of the telecom industry, Pankaj Sethi offered a few basic facts about his industry. About 50-60 per cent of handsets have a built-in FM feature. By next year, it is expected that 75 per cent mobile handsets will have the FM feature. Even the lowest monochrome mobile device has an FM feature today. This will cause higher penetration of radio in the smaller regions.

Though FM has become a regular feature on the mobile, 85 per cent of FM listeners are still at home, said Sethi. He expressed his astonishment that despite people being stuck in traffic for hours in many big cities, the maximum radio listening happened at home.

Sethi responded to his own query, saying that it was the content aired on radio that made it a homely product. "When sports, news and the likes make their way to the radio after the TRAI ruling, the percentage of listeners on the move will increase drastically," he said.

Sethi spoke of the necessity to monetise the FM feature available on mobiles. By this, he did not mean charging revenue for the services rendered, but devising a means to measure what a listener listens to in order to cash in on the product thus delivered. He concluded saying, "The measurement will increase interactivity by leaps and bounds."

Anil Srivatsa, who recently launched Meow FM in Mumbai, was definite that it was non-music content that would change things for radio. "I would like radio to rock by going further and further," said Srivatsa. By this, he was talking of mobile penetration exceeding boundaries in such a way that a person could listen to Radio Mirchi being aired in Mumbai even when he was in, say, Jodhpur. He ended his presentation saying, "Mobile can take radio beyond the terrestrial medium."

Ashit Kukian offered a selling perspective of the radio industry. The government hasn't really been a friend to the radio medium, he said candidly, and said that he hoped that the TRAI amendments would make the necessary difference to the industry.

Srivatsa also raised the issue of how respect within the radio fraternity wasn't at a high. "It is essential that we raise respect within ourselves and change perceptions if we want advertisers to take notice," he said. "It is plainly evident: Last year, FICCI conducted a couple of session to discuss radio, this year there's only one."

Kukian agreed, saying, "It is the lack of understanding. The power of radio is highly underestimated by advertisers."

Panday had a different point of view. He recounted the time when Radio Mirchi had its first Mirchi Kaan awards for radio advertising. The 21 jury members from the advertising and film industry were appalled at the work that was submitted for the awards and decided against giving out any gold. But the scenario has changed now. Efforts are being made to come up with good, if not great, advertising for radio.

Sethi supported Srivatsa's stand and said that it was only with established brand radio stations that the respect was seen; marginal and niche channels found it difficult to establish respect in their relations with advertisers.

The bottom line of the discussion was that new content (as suggested last year) and an increasing number of personal listeners through the mobile medium is the way to go if radio is to rock!