Radio can create waves in a crowded broadcasting spectrum: Experts

At the 2nd edition of the Radio Festival held to mark World Radio Day, experts talk about staying on top in an ever-crowding broadcasting spectrum and diverse offering in digital

Radio Festival Panel

The second edition of Radio Festival, in partnership with exchange4media, marked World Radio Day and took place in New Delhi on February 13. The festival included live performances, exhibitions and slotted panel discussions. This year touched on the theme of Dialogue, Diversity, and Peace.

Industry leaders from the radio space took part in an engaging panel discussion on creating waves in a crowded space. The panel was moderated by Anuradha Raman, from The Hindu and included Anju Nigam JS, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting; Nisha Narayanan, Red FM; Asheesh Chatterjee, Big FM; Rahul Namjoshi, MY FM and  Sanjoy Majumdar, BBC.

The panel engaged key players in a discussion about how to stay on top of the game in an ever-crowding broadcasting spectrum and diverse offering in the digital space, even as they must continue to retain and expand their listener base.

Moderator Anuradha Raman asked why despite the radio industry being nearly 18-19 years old, it is exactly where it started, with little to distinguish from one FM radio to another. Nisha Narayanan said, “Maybe from the music point of view, we may sound similar but I think the non-music content is a differentiator. So, from the non-music point of view, I think the RJ’s are a brand in themselves, there is Malishka, Ronak, Ashish, Kisna and Heena to name a few. There is a myth that commercial radio stations don’t talk about social issues, it’s just that we probably do it in a little more interesting manner. There is a lot of differentiated content format; there is storytelling, reality radio, audio books etc.”

Speaking about why a particular type of music is being played on radio channels i.e Bollywood music and why not enough investments are been made in researching the music, Asheesh Chatterjee emphasised, “We play music in 17 different languages. We recently changed our tag line to ‘Dhun badal ke toh dekho’ and under that umbrella, and we are launching a big show with a Bollywood personality. We will be covering 24 controversial topics ranging from body shaming, dowry to 377, and we are talking about why we are not looking at these subject in a bigger manner. Radio has evolved from just being a music station to being a far more engaging content supplier." 

Anju Nigam JS added, “It’s not that there is no research going on, there has been some improvement in the content even in the commercial channels and I am told the RJs are also evaluated by the audience, and most of them are now inclined to taking social issues as well.”  

Sharing his thoughts on diversifying content, Sanjoy Majumdar, “We have a varied range of content from news discussions, calling programs, plays and art shows. I think radio as a medium is up there, it is intimate, creative and the reach is phenomenal. Its ability to connect with a country like India which is so diverse is incredible.”

The panel also spoke about why such an intimate medium attracts such hefty license fees, and what the government has done to help the radio industry in the last 18 years to make it popular in an era of digital space. Anju Nigam JS explained, “License fees are determined by a process of auction. And the more the demand, the higher the price of the auction. The government started in 2001 with a small contingent of 21 stations and now the number of stations has moved to more than 300, so this has been the rate of expansion. This has become so popular that there was a demand to have more channels in more cities. Radio will never lose its importance it is a very powerful medium which is portable, dynamic."

Lastly, when asked what kind researching goes into understanding who your listener is, Rahul Rahul Namjoshi opined, "There is no proper currency to measure radio, so we do have our own research. What we rely more on are the incoming calls, messages."   

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