TRAI accepting the views of the Government on limiting the sources of news and current affairs for FM radio and recommending a review for expansion of sources to be considered after three years has come in for sharp rap from FM radio players. exchange4media spoke to some major players to get their reactions.
TRAI has also accepted the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s categorisation of content to be treated as non-news and current affairs broadcast and has said that the scope of such content might be enlarged after a period of three years after reviewing the experience.
‘A detriment to the industry’
Apurva Purohit, CEO, Radio City, and President, AROI, said, “For starters, the broadcast of news and current affairs on private FM has been long awaited. Adding to the richness of radio, this fresh category of content is also likely to bring incremental listenership to the medium. Limiting sources of this content for FM radio will make the exact same content available to all broadcasters. How this content is presented to listeners will largely depend on the various delivery innovations conceived by each FM station. Thus, while the introduction of a new content category will add to the diversity on radio and initiate a fresh growth spurt, limiting sources of securing this content is likely to plateau this growth and slacken its pace over a period of time.”
Prashant Pandey, CEO, Radio Mirchi, said, “Allowing news and current affairs on radio is a good development for the radio industry. However, restricting the source to just Prasar Bharati is a detriment to the industry. It is also totally unnecessary. This was a golden opportunity for both the Government and TRAI to make policy changes that would truly tap into the most powerful aspect of radio – the ability to disseminate news and information to the lowest strata of the society. They are losing this opportunity for unfounded reasons. Worries of the past, worries that they never had to face with TV and print because they woke up to the reality so many years after those media had already grown beyond control.”
Pandey further said, “What is disturbing also is the incoherent thinking on the part of the Government. If radio is such a sensitive sector that news must be regulated, then why is FDI being proposed to be raised to 26 per cent for news channels? 26 per cent is the limit for newspapers and TV news channels – where there is no restriction in the news content provided. So, if they want to keep FDI in radio at 26 per cent, then they should have no restriction on sourcing of news. And if they want to have restrictions on news, then they should keep the FDI limit lower than 25 per cent. However, we also believe that the Government has done much for radio. We see this restriction as the first step towards allowing news in totality. We have great trust in the Government.”
Nisha Narayanan, Project Head, SFM, South Asia FM Ltd, said, “The Supreme Court had said many years ago that the airwaves should be used to ensure the free speech right of the citizens, which is served by ensuring plurality and diversity of views, opinions and ideas. Even TRAI, in its recommendations on radio policy, had said that private radio should be allowed to broadcast news taken from any ‘authorised’ source, including news agencies and private TV channels. I have no idea how we went from there to the current recommendation that we can broadcast news and current affairs programmes taken only from AIR and DD.”
She added, “Broadcasting news and current affairs programmes only from AIR and DD would be terribly restrictive. In an election year, the kind of news coverage provided by AIR is likely to be extremely coloured, and this could have political implications. Besides, AIR’s record of local news coverage is not very promising. Private companies have radio stations in 87 cities already, and this could go up by another 200 or more in the next phase of FM licensing, while AIR has barely 44 news rooms. It would be quite impossible to source local news in these 300 or so FM cities from AIR or DD. The chances are that all the stations would end up broadcasting exactly the same sort of national and international news that is broadcast on AIR, which has no local relevance. The FM channels would have no editorial control whatsoever. We will need to study a number of issues very carefully before we take a decision on using AIR news.”
Tarun Katial, COO, Big Fm, opined, “I think getting news and current affairs is a good idea, however, limiting the news to AIR and DD is restrictive. But allowing news and current affairs is a step in the right direction.”
Harish Bhatia, COO, My FM, said, “It’s definitely a setback to the radio Industry. I believe AROI will for sure object to this move strongly. We are unable to understand the logic behind this move and wish to ask the Government how news is monitored on cable, which is also very local and city centric. Similarly, how the content in local newspapers is monitored.”
TRAI accepts Govt view on limiting sources of news and current affairs for FM radio