Content on private FM radio stations is the most widely discussed subject these days. With more stations coming up over the next few months, the subject is going to be debated even further. But, in spite of all these discussions at various forums there has been no tangible solution to it. Ficci-Frames 2007 provided yet another opportunity for the industry stakeholders and leading players to air their views about the content to be played on-air.
Creating the platform for the discussion, A.P. Parigi, managing director and chief executive Entertainment Network India that runs Radio Mirchi, outlined the growth of the FM industry in the country and observed that “from infancy, we have come to adolescence over the years and the panel here will try and build a strong position for the FM radio industry in the country.” Pointing at the growth of this new media, he asked, “Can we make radio as powerful as the Internet?”
Citing the Brand Asset Valuation report that follows the Young and Rubicom tool, Radio City chief executive Apurva Purohit pointed out that almost all radio stations were low on differentiation across the country. Citing examples of international radio stations like Capital, Heart and Magic in London which play similar music, she remarked, “It’s possible to segment, differentiate and still play hit numbers and the leadership game.” Citing the example of Classic FM of Britain, Purohit explained how a niche radio station moved beyond from being just a radio station to a brand in itself.
Pointing out that numerous brands and even politicians along with celebrities are embracing radio, Tarun Katial, chief operating officer of Big FM which is owned by the Anil Ambani-group promoted AdLabs, talked about how radio as a medium was becoming bigger and bigger every day. Speaking on how interactivity and co-branding is essential for getting closer to the audience, he cited the example of East-Coast Radio, a South African radio station positioned as a community-building medium.
Observing that radio is an ideal medium to reach out to the bottom-of-the-pyramid, he also offered his views on the various other radio formats like digital audi broadcast (DAB), mobile & visual radio, Internet radio, hi-definition radio, and IPTV among others, which can be utilised in the coming years.
Australian Film Television and Radio School head Steve Ahern divulged that nine percent of advertising was on radio and that the listenership was growing year-on-year. He believed that in Australia “the operators try to grow the overall radio industry share as their first priority.” And to replicate this model elsewhere, he feels that what’s needed is a more of a psychographic differentiation rather than a demographic one.
The British channel Absolute Radio chief executive Donnach O’Driscoli talked about the British radio market which he feels is highly developed than India. He asserted that even after the entry of newer media, traditional radio would still flourish worldwide. He noted that India did not have much bureaucratic problems, when it comes to content regulation as compared to Britain, which he said was an important contributor for this fast paced growth of this medium in this country.
Sharing his thoughts on developing content and distribution in the Indian radio industry, he continued, “India has a window of opportunity for this nascent media industry with the huge talent pool available and the large amounts of money coming in.” Commenting on the necessity of a personal connect from the medium, he said, “iPods and MP3 players cannot replace radio, if there is enough personal connect available for the listeners through the human voice.”
Radio Today chief operating officer Anil Srivatsa observed that adaptation was necessary for radio to be successful. Promising that he said he would not restrict his station’s programming to only music. “Music is just a punctuation mark, we have to go beyond that,” he said.
Agreeing with other panelists’ views, Sony BMG Music Entertainment managing director Shridhar Subramaniam explained how stations in Bangalore differentiated their content territorially.
However, even after all these discussions by the players and the experts, there seems to be no consensus on what is the perfect plan to satisfy the listener with differentiated content. Along with the listener, media planners today are also opining on how all radio stations sound alike. Now, with Radio Today promising to go beyond music, let’s hope that we will see some of the much-needed fresh sound bites on our airwaves. But will it succeed? No one knows for sure.