Music rules supreme, or so we have been told. While book reading sessions and radio plays used to work well on All India Radio earlier, most of the radio stations in today’s times tend to play safe and dole out a relatively similar mix of music. Until Radio City decided to step out of the crowd and begin radio soaps such as Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Saas, Darr and Apradhi Kaun. A dipstick was conducted by Madison Media during the first week of December ’03 among 100 housewives in SEC ABC to understand the impact of these shows. It was found that a large number of people, when prompted recalled the new programmes on Radio City, with Kyunki topping the charts with a whopping 78%. Nearly a fourth of the respondents claimed to have already tuned into Kyunki at the time of the dipstick! Does this mean that unconventional radio formats are finding a place with audiences?
Says Sumantra Dutta, COO, Radio City, “Of course they are! The feedback has been fantastic with all of City’s listeners tuning into these soaps on a regular basis. We are of course waiting for research by ORG Marg and a few other credible bodies, in order to measure the impact that’s been created. But from a dipstick that we have conducted internally, I would say that the audiences are starting to catch up with these soaps. This doesn’t mean that it has lessened our commitment to music in any way, but I don’t see music as the only option on radio. Varied formats have emerged on radio in other parts of the world, it’s only natural that India would have some too.”
Would City be considering getting book-reading sessions on radio or specialized radio plays? Dutta adds, “I don’t really know whether book reading sessions work well on radio, but at the moment, we don’t intend to incorporate this particular format. As for radio plays, Rollywood, Kyunki, Darr… I would classify all of them as radio plays. And perhaps, we could bring in more of them in the future.”
Aditya Patwardhan, Station Director, RED FM states, “In countries like America, radio formats rule, especially talk shows. News on radio is a big deal in lots of countries. The thing with the Indian FM industry is that it is still evolving in the true sense of the word; the radio stations are few in number and most have to worry about survival thanks to the license fee. With so few radio stations around, its not really possible for radio formats to emerge as stations are pre occupied with other things and don’t undertake too much of experimentation. However, Red is constantly innovating and bringing on innovative radio formats like Ajit-Mona dialogue, shayari, humor segments like Angry Ganeshan and Behre Kaka. Our USP is Asli Masti and we are constantly aspiring to build on that. Music is not all that we serve.”
Would RED be considering radio soaps? Patwardhan asserts, “Well, we will have to see how Radio City fares with the soaps and serials that are running on air. From RED’s side, there are no such initiatives (long run radio plays) on the cards at least for the moment. The thing with varied radio formats like plays and book-reading sessions is that they work well, depending on the caliber and the adaptation efforts. With evolution and time, we should see a lot more of varied formats coming on radio.”
Shariq Patel, Station Head, Go 92.5 states that there’s no hard and fast rule that states that stations must provide 99 per cent of music and 1 per cent of talk. He elaborates, “It’s sad that some stations denigrate radio as a background medium, when really, it’s a medium that’s personal and generates great involvement levels. Go 92.5 has seen this, from the amount of feedback that we get from our listeners. And there’s a lot of talk that occurs on our station, the RJ plays a very important role and acts as the channel of differentiation between the other stations and us. However, as far as new formats like radio soaps are concerned, I would say that the industry is still buying into the concept. Though there is an overwhelming stress on music in today’s times, innovative radio formats would evolve over time.”
What does Go have to say about City’s Saas Bahu offerings? Patel asserts, “ Well, the jury is still out there and nobody has any figures as yet. It’s too early to say anything about these radio soaps; people would take some time to get used to the format. From our side, we don’t plan to introduce anything of the kind at least in the near future. But we have taken initiatives such as the Super Cook challenge which have managed to generate a good response from our listeners.”
Most media professionals believe that as the industry evolves, it breaks into distinct and niche spheres. Interestingly, formats are so varied in the outside world, especially on radio, that one doesn’t have to think twice about the kind of audience that the station caters to. And the accusation of one radio station looking exactly like the other doesn’t come into play.