With the radio industry spreading to smaller cities and towns of India with the phase II of FM radio licensing, it has brought to light some of the common problems faced by broadcasters while setting up radio stations in these places. While infrastructure and quality manpower seems to be a major issue, revenues and growth prospects also play a big role in the process.
Broadcasters affirm the issue of infrastructural difficulties like availability of electricity and other basic resources. Soumen Choudhury, Chief Technical Officer, Big FM, pointed out some of the roadblocks faced. “Smaller cities and especially ‘virgin territories’ which are experiencing radio entertainment for the very first time come with roadblocks, ranging from setting up offices and studios, to getting electricity connection of requisite power in given time frame,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Apurva Purohit, CEO, Radio City, noting that the station had presence only in select metros and mini-metros, explained, “For us, the process went very smoothly with great support and cooperation from regulatory authorities. However, possibly for players who have entered small markets, the challenges of setting up FM stations would largely arise from the perspective of sourcing talent.” Agreeing with them, Nisha Narayanan, Business Head, S FM, also stressed the need to resolve power issues in some of the towns where S FM operated in.
Considering some of the other issues faced by broadcasters in smaller towns, Narayanan was of the opinion that talent was not a problem in these places, but professionalism was. “There is a lot of quality talent in the small towns of India, but understanding of the medium and the required professionalism is not present. Another major issue plaguing almost all radio players is the availability of local music content. As the local music companies are not part of any industry body, there is a great difficulty in getting the content,” she added.
Another major subject of concern for broadcasters is the revenues and growth prospective for players in these towns. “The revenue potential of such cities vis-à-vis the investment tends to be rather limited,” added Purohit. Meanwhile, Narayanan is assured that the future of FM radio lies in smaller towns, although revenues were not high in smaller towns at present. “But, it will continue to grow in the coming years,” she expressed.
Choudhury also stressed that the biggest challenges involved profitable economies for FM radio station operations and getting quality skilled manpower available locally.
Suggesting ways to overcome some of these issues, Narayanan expressed the need to have some industry body for local music companies, and scout for employing part-timers in such markets. Elaborating on ways to overcome such problems, Big FM’s Choudhury said, “Each problem is workable and we are working towards seeking full advertising potential of the stations, in addition to seeking talent from the local populace. We are also in talks with government bodies and officials to get several other issues sorted for the industry.”