Rachit Vats

<FONT COLOR="#FF0033"><B>FICCI Radio Forum:</B></FONT> Radio stations desperately need individuality

At the 2nd FICCI Radio Forum held in New Delhi, industry stalwarts discussed issues related to radio programming, finance and regulations

The number of new radio stations cropping up will lead to an explosion of options for listeners, but for the station heads, the challenge will be to sustain a separate identity. At the 2nd FICCI Radio Forum in New Delhi on November 13, industry experts collectively said that radio stations lack individuality today. They also agreed that there was a great need for niche radio stations.

The forum brought together radio players, advertisers and government officials to discuss the various aspects of radio broadcasting. There was general agreement that the private FM scene in India is up for grabs. Coupled with a high degree of enthusiasm and the endless opportunities that lie ahead, be it FM, digital radio or community radio, stalwarts from the sector showed immense optimism, even though there are plenty of regulatory and financial issues waiting to be addressed within the industry.

In the last few years, the radio industry has witnessed a tremendous change. The second phase of FM radio privatisation has brought about a huge proliferation of channels. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, the radio industry, which stood at Rs 2,400 million in 2004, is expected to grow to Rs 12,000 million by 2010 – an unprecedented growth of 32 per cent CAGR, while the entire media and entertainment industry is expected to grow at just 19 per cent CAGR.

In India, radio came in almost 10 years after cable and satellite. Thus, there were doubts about the growth of radio. AK Sawhney, member, TRAI, said, “Though the bids for Phase II removed these doubts, a large spectrum has been kept lying unused which can be used for a larger broadcast. Our focus as a regulator is to expand the market and provide room for newer technology, to make the best use of the spectrum and allow new players to come in.”

AP Parigi, managing director and chief executive officer, Radio Mirchi, said, “No doubt radio listenership is growing really fast. From a weekly listenership of 70 million in 2005, radio has grown to 114 million in 12-14 months. From 14 towns and 40 stations, we are moving to 40 towns and 300 stations. These are indicators that suggest that FM is here to stay. Yet, there is room for many reforms to take place. Dialogues and participation such as this will help achieve results. Governments may come and go, but the reform process should not falter.”

There are other issues connected to programming. FM radio, though opened up to commercial players, still cannot broadcast news. With 300 FM channels coming up in the months to come, the information and broadcasting ministry will have a difficult task to perform as a policy maker, licensing authority and regulatory body. Thus, there is a need to bring in an independent regulator. SK Arora, secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting, Government of India, said, “We are waiting for the results of the Phase II policies. Keeping all the demands in mind, the policy could be tweaked for a future phase.”

Arora added, “Our policy perspective is not merely for FM radio. The change is for the whole sector. We will introduce liberalisation in satellite as well as community radio.”

Ameen Sayani, veteran radio presenter, too, was present at the forum. In his speech, he laid emphasis on the programming aspect. Sayani pointed to the lack of individuality among the radio stations. He remarked, “Every station that we switch on to sounds the same. Individuality is essential in radio. The first step towards achieving individuality in radio is to go for niche radio stations.”

© 2006 agencyfaqs!

Have news to share? Write to us atnewsteam@afaqs.com