Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI) on November 12, 2009 organised Vision - 2010, the country’s first-ever large scale conference on the FM radio industry. Vision - 2010 is a common platform for the Ministry, players and other related authorities to discuss the issues of the Indian radio industry and the way forward.
The event commemorated Broadcaster’s Day in memory of Mahatma Gandhi’s first and only radio address to the nation on November 12, 1947.
The day-long conference, which was held in Delhi, saw some panel discussions that covered pertinent issues like Phase III of FM radio expansion, content related issues, licensing and music royalties, news on FM, etc.
Putting forward the Government’s perspective, Raghu Menon, Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), said, “We regard radio as a powerful medium. Being a cheap and feasible medium for everyone, the Government is very concerned about the growth of radio.”
Menon further said, “I reassure all of you on behalf of the Government that the policy of the Government is to develop and strengthen radio and take it to the remotest parts of the country. The Government has also come up with various strategies for the growth of FM radio in phases. In Phase III, we are planning to take FM radio to the smaller Indian towns. Incentives will be provided to improve reach to remotest areas and existing players will also gain from these incentives. Phase III will provide much more liberty to radio.”
Menon stressed that a calibrated and measured way to go forward was always better than rushing ahead. “There is immense scope for growth of FM and private players in India. The Government has also developed policies for the growth of community radio as they can serve a limited and niche audience. For them we have tried to make the process as painless as possible.”
Uday Kumar Verma, Additional Secretary, MIB, added here, “It is in the Government’s interest to know what is going on in the radio industry’s mind. With the Phase III expansion, there will be nearly 800 radio channels operating in India very soon. Despite this, FM radio in our country can still be said to be at a nascent stage.”
Content controversy in radio too
Regarding news on FM radio, Menon said, “News on FM radio is an issue that we are considering. We are in talks with other ministries as well. The Government does not want any situation where radio caters only to elite listeners. Its content should be relevant to all sections of the society. Radio should promote local content and talent. Currently, Bollywood-based content dominates, which needs to be controlled. FM radio is failing in its duty unless local content is given fair focus.”
Agreeing with Menon, Verma, too, stressed on the importance of good content. “Certain percentage of the content on radio should be devoted to local issues. The Government will soon classify non-news information that can go on air.”
On the music royalty issue, Menon said, “Music royalty does not come within the mandate of the MIB. However, we, too, are concerned about it.”
Noting that the current ad share of radio was just 4-5 per cent, Menon said, “We are expecting it to go up to 12 per cent in the next few years. I find radio to be a value for money medium for advertisers. RAM and ILT are the measurement tools that are definitely going to help advertisers. However, I sincerely hope radio will not follow the rat race seen in television for TRPs.”
He concluded by saying, “Trained people are necessary for RJing without losing the spontaneity and excitement of this profession. Policies can always be dynamic and evolve over time, it need not be static. Policies made in a rush will not survive in the long run.”