As the countdown for the 14th General Elections begins and the country readies itself for the polls, radio stations are staking their claim in the election drama. The law of the land states that private FM operators should maintain a safe distance from news related agenda and events which are political in nature. And stations are trying their best to work their way around the disability. Radio City has announced a series of initiatives under the garb of Janta Jagao Desh Hilao which engages listeners in the election process through a series of innovative programmes. This kind of specialized programming will be spread over five weeks across Radio City stations in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Lucknow.
Radio City is offering Kya Baat Kar Raha Hai (a series of vignettes highlighting electoral trivia), Janta Chunega Apna Mantriji (a mega poll which enables listeners to choose ministers of their choice), Popat (which would be an election quotient in the form of a call in show), Public City Election Special (a platform for listeners to air their aspirations and expectations from elected representative, post elections), Iss Ghante (where celebrities and politicians post messages that would encourage listeners to cast their vote), Rajdhani Express (a segment which traces the journey and experiences of film stars who make it to the political arena) and Thengalalji (featuring the comic character Thengalalji who would use his quirky sense of humor to encourage Indians to vote).
Says Sumantra Dutta, COO, Radio City, “Radio as a medium is highly interactive with an awesome user base and the elections is the single largest and most important event for the country. In keeping with the belief of using the airwaves for a responsible cause, Radio City will be utilizing the opportunity to involve and educate our listeners about the importance of the casting their vote for the elections in a manner that is exciting and innovative.” He adds, “Going a step further, besides creating awareness about the importance of voting, Radio City will also run promos to create awareness about the citizen’s responsibility to vote for candidates that do not have a criminal record.”
What’s more, Radio City is giving listeners a chance to showcase their knowledge and skills with a host of interactive contests such as Election Countdown and Hum Aap Ke Hain Kaun.
Shariq Patel, Station Head, Go 92.5 asserts, “Private FM operators don’t really have much liberty when it comes to election related agenda and we are supposed to distance ourselves from current affairs and news bytes. This is why we don’t have a long list of election related initiatives. But since the 14th General Elections are an event of remarkable stature, we have had a community service programme which implores to non registered voters to register. We gave the requisite details about the entire process of registration and the people you need to get in touch with. Closer to the time of the actual elections, we would be running public service messages and RJ mentions, through an activity called ‘Show Your Finger’, which would emphasize that the entire process of vote casting is indeed a ‘cool’ experience.”
He adds, “Since we cater to a relatively young audience, we are sure that we could transform the entire voting process into something ‘cool’ and encourage a lot more participation.”
In the same vein, Red FM also states that it doesn’t have too many election offerings up its sleeve but it would be airing public service messages and election related trivia. Nishchint Chawala, COO, Red FM states flatly, “Though the elections are an event in itself, private radio stations can’t possibly take much of an initiative in this direction, due to the legal bindings. News is out of bounds for us. Since the core aspect of any election race is ‘Who’s winning’ and ‘Who’s Losing’ and it definitely comes under the news genre, we can’t really dabble much in the same. From our part, we would be taking on public service messages and election related humor, in order to build up the momentum for the elections. The main aspect would of course be to encourage the listeners to cast their vote and actively participate in the electoral process.”
Radio could be quite a platform for listeners to air their views on the elections. What about debates and discussions? Chawla shrugs, “All of it borders down to current events and is almost in the same vein as news channels. As private operators, we are not in a position to furnish that kind of programming.”
Elections on radio? Not quite the same as cricket, is it? At the end of the day, with all the election related heavy weather moving on relentlessly on television, would listeners want to tune into more of the same on radio? Perhaps it’s just as well that stations are focusing on their core proposition and not deviating to uncharted territory, for which, there may not be many takers.