Radio could be three times bigger than it is now: Prashant Panday

Prashant Panday, MD & CEO of Entertainment Network (India) Limited, talks of high growth potential of radio if the govt frees up additional spectrum & curbs on content and much more.


If Prashant Panday, MD & CEO of Entertainment Network India Limited (ENIL) had his way, Mumbai would have at least 45 radio stations compared to the current nine. What bothers the Radio veteran is that the medium has immense potential, but is suppressed under government regulations that not only restrict growth by not opening up available spectrum, but also impose curbs on the kind of content that can go on the airwaves, giving it a distinct disadvantage, compared to any other medium. “Somebody should ask why aren’t there 45 radio stations in Mumbai,” asserts Panday, “There is so much spectrum and we have only nine stations in Mumbai, whereas in a city like New York, there are 45 stations. The Government doesn’t understand that it is sitting on spectrum which is going to become useless in another 10-15 years. So, it might as well put it out and make some money. TRAI made the recommendation, but the Government doesn’t move.”

To take his argument further, he points out that the city of Mumbai – with at least 10 lakh Tamilian residents - has no Tamil radio station, while even Singapore has a radio station for its much smaller Tamil population. Mumbai also has only one radio station that plays English. “This country and city has moved forward, but there’s only one radio station in English. So, it’s frustrating that this beautiful medium of Radio is being wasted when it could have been 3-4 times bigger, had the Government bothered to open it up,” Panday adds.

Insisting that the Government should have a more open mind on supply, make more spectrum available to broadcasters and open up news, as well as sports, for Radio, Panday says, “You have 80,000 newspapers or publications. You have 250-300 news channels which you can’t control. You have a few million websites, 25 million Twitter handles you can’t control, but you want to control only Radio. I don’t know where this comes from.” Radio has never abused its power, Panday declares, adding that it is Radio networks that the Government turns to for help whenever there is an emergency, like a flood or a riot, as only Radio stations remain operational. “Also, Sports rights are sold off worldwide but you can’t do it in India. If somebody is on the road and they want to listen to cricket, why not give it to them on private Radio? The worst thing is, you can’t understand the logic for some of these things. Is it that you are reserving it for TV, which doesn’t care?” Panday asks.


Last month, ENIL, the holding company of Radio Mirchi, reported a 50% profit after tax (PAT) and revenues of Rs 122.5 crore for the quarter ended September 30, 2018. This follows Radio Mirchi’s positive growth trajectory, which has led to its emergence as the number one FM broadcaster in Delhi and Mumbai, as well as in the top eight metros taken together, as per IRS data for 2017. Over the years, since its launch in 2002, Radio Mirchi has continuously sought to reinvent itself, going beyond plain vanilla music offerings to offer listeners much more; be it through Mirchi Love, a station dedicated to romantic melodies in various languages, the multimedia solutions business, which includes concerts like the recent Bryan Adams The Ultimate Tour; pioneering short snackable audio content series produced in-house which has helped in it being consumed on the same lines as All India Bakchod (AIB), Only Much Louder (OML) and TVF Pitchers, among others; entering new markets post Phase 3 auctions and more – all of which have been key contributors to Radio Mirchi’s success.

In a freewheeling conversation with IMPACT, Prashant Panday talks about expectations from the new Phase 3 stations, how the Times Group heritage has had a large role to play in the network’s success, right from the ability to attract the best managerial and creative talent to leveraging client relationships of the Times of India Print business for revenue generation; getting listed in 2006, expanding its offerings into new business platforms beyond FCT, which today accounts for 25-30% of overall revenues, increased focus on advertising on the Digital medium, the acquisition of Ishq 104.8 FM and more…

What expectations do you have from the network post the Radio Phase 3 auctions?

There have been two batches in Phase 3, in which we acquired 17 stations in the first batch and 21 in the second. That makes it 38 stations in Phase 3, in places like Akola, Amravati, Asansol, Bharuch, Bhavnagar, Durg, Jamnagar, Jhansi, Junagarh, Mysuru, Puducherry, Siliguri, Ujjain and Warangal among others. Our expectation is more from the station Mirchi Love. Most people look at music as being either in English, Hindi, Tamil or any other language. They either look at contemporary or 90s or retro. When we looked at the market, we knew that there was a different need which was not defined only by the age or language of music. We knew that you can actually develop on the back of an emotion, and that’s how Mirchi Love was launched.

What is the one differentiator for Mirchi Love?

Mirchi Love’s objective is that when you consume it, you will look at the world through rose-tinted glasses. It is bound to make you cheerful and feel like you are in love. So, the choice of music is more melodious and better for long duration listening, unlike Radio Mirchi, which is necessarily noisier because it is built on the premise of being contemporary. If you can consume Mirchi for an hour, you can consume this for three hours, as it is much smoother and premium as a genre. This is the third year for Mirchi Love with 50% of the talk in English, which was a gutsy call that we held on to, as there is no advertising beyond 10 minutes. 

It was indeed a very bold decision to cut the number of ads played on Radio Mirchi as well as Mirchi Love, based on listener feedback… How has that worked out?

For all the new stations of Mirchi like Chandigarh, Guwahati, Cochin, Srinagar and Jammu, which came in Batch 1 of Phase 3 – we curbed advertising to 10 minutes per hour. Even during the Diwali month, when the business volumes go through the roof, Mirchi was at 24 minutes, while Red FM was at 30 minutes and Big FM at 35 minutes. But Mirchi Love is firmly capped at 10 minutes and we are in the process of acquiring Ishq, which will hopefully be approved by the Ministry soon. This has been a great reason why the brands have built up very well.

But how did you address the challenge of increasing revenues without increasing ads?

The proposition to the client is that even if half their spots are wasted, they are effectively paying Rs 2000 to Red FM in Mumbai, or Rs 2,500 to Radio Mirchi whereas, we are offering Ishq at Rs 1000 in Mumbai and saying that it will be in a two or 2.5 minute ad break, which won’t let a single ad of theirs be wasted. It’s not the easiest thing to convince clients because we don’t always meet them; we meet agencies who tend to bargain. But over a period of time, one needs to be patient and hold the storyline to make it work. We are now running full up on ad inventory in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, and are starting to run full up on Ishq in Mumbai and Delhi as well. The market takes 2-3 years, but you have to have the patience, and fortunately for me, we are working in the right environment, where we’re not under too much revenue pressure, be it from the Board or the Chairman.

How have Radio ad revenues recovered post the effects of GST, demonetization, RERA which affected advertising by real estate companies?

After demonetization, came in RERA somewhere in July 2017. The market got really badly butchered. However, Mumbai has recovered, but Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Pune and Jaipur are in very bad shape whereas Kolkata is better. So, it varies from market to market. When we cut 15% of ad volume in Radio Mirchi, our mother brand, last year, everybody else was growing ad volumes to get price increases as the market was down. I don’t know how to evaluate it, because obviously we lost revenues and reported a de-growth last year. Nevertheless, in the research that followed, we came out on top. We believe that all of these things have a beneficial impact on listenership eventually. We have not increased the ad volume now, but are not taking any further dip. We recovered in our pricing, which grew by about 6-7% last year.

So we are in an investment phase where we made a lot of investments in picking up frequencies in Phase 3. All the costs are upfront but the revenue build-up happened slowly. Secondly, we cut volumes last year as a response to listener feedback. Thirdly, we as a strategy over-invest in marketing and build less volumes. It is a combination of the three.

How are you betting on political advertising ahead of the upcoming elections?

Political advertising is very often misunderstood in our country as it varies State by State. All the money that comes to political advertising for a brand like us are not incremental revenues. If we get five minutes of political advertising in an hour, we have to throw out five minutes of other advertising as we have capped it at 24 minutes. So, all the extra earnings is the incremental pricing on that 5 minutes. Political advertising is very important because the pricing is higher. But it is uncertain and we don’t know how much we will get.

Radio Mirchi’s ‘Mat Aao India’ campaign was taken down after a backlash and the ‘Mitron’ segment has also been scrapped after complaints from senior BJP leaders. What is your view of Government interference in content on media platforms?

There has been Government interference for many years. The speaker in the previous government had a very nasal way of speaking. So, we did a fun capsule on that and got a complaint from her office asking us to put it down. So, let’s be honest, it’s not that it has not always happened. It has certainly increased of late. The ‘Mitron’ campaign was a very innocuous campaign which ran for more than six months. Although some sections of the Government took offence, it had already run its course and we didn’t feel so badly hit by it.

However, the ‘Mat Aao India’ campaign was an unnecessary controversy that we got into. There was a molestation that happened in Fatehpur Sikri which made my team make a promo which jokingly said, you know ‘just don’t come to India’, which we put out on our Kanpur station, Lucknow station, in UP and in 5-6 other cities. It played for a couple of days, but nothing happened until our regional programming head put it on Twitter sometime in the night. I woke up in the morning, flooded with messages and phone calls asking us what we’ve done and calling us anti-national as we were supposedly urging tourists not to come to India. We explained to them that foreigners wouldn’t understand Hindi and that it wasn’t playing abroad and was just a satire.

In that context, do you think the Government has come down too heavily on people and did you get a notice for this?

In today’s world, it’s not the Government which does anything, but the trolls. We got badly trolled and therefore came under pressure. The trolls have taken over. Every media brand goes through it. But, to be honest, the Government has never called us for a meeting. Somebody tagged the I&B Minister, Smriti Irani, at that time. But nothing happened at the Government level officially, except for the troll level. So, they will say ‘Don’t listen to Mirchi’. These are mostly all hollow threats, but we are a happy brand and just have fun all the time. We don’t want to get into this controversy, we are not a political brand, which is why we avoid all that.

With regard to a person’s social media posts, should it be considered the professional opinion of a CEO and therefore represent the company or the personal opinion of an individual?

In India you are the brand and the brand is you, which is the reason why every head honcho in India, when they go on TV, or talk in Print, they always say good things about the Government. It is not about this Government, but every government. So, a big businessman will say India is the best, but will go and invest abroad. Globally, the institutions are much stronger. The institutional framework in those countries is very strong but in our country it is not. We are a relatively younger democracy and every Government exploits it that way.

What is the kind of policy support the Radio industry needs from the Government? You have said the MIB rules are restrictive and come in the way of mergers and deals – what needs to change?

There are only 13 cities in India where a broadcaster can run two channels. But, there are radio stations in about 125 cities. So, what happens to all the remaining 110+ cities? In those cities, a Radio company can have only one radio station. If I have to acquire another network, how do I do it? There will be some 20 cities where we will have two frequencies, but I have to give up one, because only one is allowed. So, this is very anti-mergers and these rules have been framed somewhere in 2000 and haven’t changed since then.

What is the reason behind shifting the network’s marketing strategy to television advertising for new and existing radio stations?

It all depends on your needs of the year. Before we launched Mirchi Love, which was our second frequency network, and before we launched our new stations in Chandigarh, Cochin and others, we did television advertising. And the reason was, we wanted to make sure that we were entering the new cities, which already had a lot of brand pull. Subsequently, we moved out of television and have been doing more digital and local advertising nowadays.

How do you see the year panning out for Radio Mirchi and what can we expect? Where do you see growth coming from, and what are the new growth areas that can materialize?

There is a certain softness in the media and consumer markets. Therefore, I think that the year will remain relatively softer than we would have liked it to be. It can do much better, and may be because of the political advertising that will follow towards the end of the financial year, it will actually lift. But, it’s more likely to end up softer than it is to end up stronger. Growth will come from traditional media. Our second frequency network has become more mature and has actually been received well by listeners. That is an area that promises fast growth. About 70% of our revenue is from Radio and 30% is from what we call solutions businesses. So, for instance, we have a very strong activations business. We have a strong television content business. We have something called ‘multimedia solutions business’. Concerts are a growing business for us and we have a lot of other businesses from which I see a lot of growth happening as brands are increasingly looking at touch-points by going beyond mass media. We expect a lot of growth to come from the solutions business, and of course from the second frequencies on the radio side.

Talking of brands, which categories of advertisers have shown positive trends in Radio advertising over the last few years?

There is not one single category of advertiser that does not advertise on Radio, which is why there is no one category which is particularly big on Radio. The biggest, of course, would be the Government, making up 12% to 13% of our total ad revenues. But, there are a whole lot of other categories all in the 6% to 10%-12% range. There is FMCG which is about 10%-12%. There is Auto and Education which are pretty big. There is Real Estate which used to be bigger earlier, but still pretty decent. There is e-commerce which is again becoming very big after a bit of a slump two years back. Telecom used to be big earlier but now it has gone into a slump. But, there are at least half a dozen categories which are between 6% and 10% each.

What do you think of the level of creativity in Radio ads today?

Unfortunately, it’s limited, and I don’t think that the Radio industry itself has done a great job building creativity, but overall, Radio doesn’t get the kind of ads that it should get. If it did, advertisers would benefit tremendously. If you go abroad, you see really classy ads. In India, it appears to be more functional ads. The message is delivered in the most crisp and simple manner.

Are you looking to do something about it… perhaps collaborate with the creative folk or marketers?

Every advertiser is on Radio. It is an important part of every media plan today. Unfortunately, Radio has become a very busy medium, and a very hard-working medium. There is no time to pause and make it look beautiful. I don’t think it’s going to happen very quickly.

We recently saw Radio Mirchi and Red FM join hands in the ‘Power of 2’ campaign for Quaker Oats + Milk… what made you decide to associate with a competitor?

There was an idea that we had created for Quaker….and as part of the “Power of 2”, we worked with Red FM to deliver the solution. We are very comfortable working with other radio brands in creative ways.

What is the official conversation around a unified measurement body for Radio on the lines of BARC for TV?

TRAI had suggested something along these lines…I think the research is stalled because there is no consensus on the measurement methodology, costs etc.

The Radio AdEx still stands at 3.5%-4% of the overall advertising pie. So, how do you see it growing?

Radio could be three times bigger than it is, if only the Government opened up more frequencies, more licenses, allowed news, mergers and acquisitions to take place. The potential in India is very high and we believe it’s about 4.5%, but this number could be easily about 8% or 9%. It’s an underexplored market and a wasted opportunity.

How big a game is video for Radio Mirchi? And why hasn’t digital radio taken off the way it was expected to?
Put these questions to Prashant Panday, and he says, “India is largely a video country. For instance, music is not audio as much here as it is video. Everybody watches music on YouTube or wherever, but they don’t consume as much on the music OTT apps as they would probably in the US and other places. It’s a combination of smartphones and very cheap data that has actually made people watch video. For Mirchi, it is a great opportunity to do more video but we are not in the business of serious video or long format video. What we have are 300 creative people under one roof called ‘Radio Mirchi’ who produce great audio content for Radio. But, if these are creative guys, and they are not just audio guys, then why can’t they express themselves in the video format? We are tapping into our talent pool. We have now hired writers who write great scripts keeping our RJs in mind. Typically, these are all small episodes of 5, 7 and 10 minutes and we make 5-6 episodes into a series. These are what we call snackable content. We use our in-house talent, and there is a huge demand for this in the market. No other radio broadcaster does this. Our competition ends up being players like AIB, OML and TVF, and some of the guys in the South. Particularly in regional content, there is a huge opportunity. We did this thing in Tamil with Kalyanam and got 10 million plus views organically and the brand which was integrated was very happy. That led to our second season coming up. We are hoping to do at least 20 hours of video content this year. It’s small right now but it can be a viable and profitable business.”




(With inputs from Eularie Saldanha)

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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."   

RAM Week 4: Fever FM continues to lead in Mumbai and Delhi

Radio City held the top spot in Bangalore, while Radio Mirchi continued to rule in Kolkata

RAM Radio Ratings

In Week 4 of RAM Ratings, Fever FM has continued to hold on to its leading position in Mumbai and Delhi. Radio City remains at the No.1 position in Bangalore, while Radio Mirchi still dominated in Kolkata.

In Mumbai, Fever FM ruled with an 18 per cent share in a universe of 12.2 million listeners. This was followed by Radio Mirchi with 13 per cent and Radio City with 12 per cent shares. Early morning, followed by morning and mid-morning time band observed the highest listenership on total radio.

Fever FM also continued to lead in Delhi with 19 per cent share in a universe of 16.5 million listeners. Radio Nasha and Radio City held the second and third positions. Early morning, followed by evening and afternoon time bands observed the highest listenership on total radio.

In Bangalore, Radio City held the top spot with 26 per cent share in a universe of 5.3 million listeners. This was followed by Big FM with 20 per cent, and Radio Mirchi with 16 per cent. Mid-morning, followed by evening and night observed the highest listenership on total radio.

Radio Mirchi remained in the dominant position in Kolkata with a 19.4 per cent share in a universe of 9.1 million listeners. Fever FM took the second spot with 19 per cent share, while Big FM held the third position at 17 per cent. Afternoon, followed by morning and mid-morning time band observed the highest listenership on total radio.

RAM Ratings Week 3: Fever FM holds top spot in Mumbai and Delhi

Radio City and Radio Mirchi continue to lead in Bangalore and Kolkata respectively

RAM Radio Ratings

In Week 3 of the RAM ratings, Fever FM continued to dominate in Mumbai and Delhi, while Radio City held the top position in Bangalore, and Radio Mirchi continued to lead in Kolkata.

In Mumbai, in a universe of 12.2 million listeners, Fever FM led with a 16.9 per cent share, Radio Mirchi held on to the second position with 14 per cent share, while Radio City clinched the third spot with 13 per cent share. Evening followed by mid-morning and morning time band observed the highest listenership on total radio.

Fever FM also held the lead in Delhi in a universe of 16.5 million listeners with 18.2 per cent share, Radio City and Radio Nasha held the second and third spots respectively with 13 per cent share. Evening, followed by early morning and morning time band observed the highest listenership on total radio.

In Week 3, Radio City continued to dominate in Bangalore with a 24.7 per cent share in a universe of 5.3 million listeners. Big FM and Radio Mirchi took the second and third positions with a 19 and 17 per cent share respectively. Afternoon, followed by evening and mid-morning time band observed the highest listenership on total radio.

In Kolkata, Radio Mirchi retained the top spot with a 19.6 per cent share in a universe of 9.1 million listeners. Fever FM followed with 17 per cent, while Big FM took the third position with 17 per cent. Mid-morning, followed by morning and afternoon time band observed the highest listenership on total radio.

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RAM Ratings Week 2: Fever FM maintains lead in Mumbai and Delhi

Radio Mirchi and Radio City retain top positions in Kolkata and Bangalore respectively

RAM Radio Ratings

In Week 2 of the RAM ratings, Fever FM retained its hold in Mumbai and Delhi, while Radio Mirchi and Radio City maintained leadership in Kolkata and Bangalore respectively.

In Mumbai, in a universe of 12.2 million listeners, Fever FM dominated with a 17.3 per cent share, followed by Radio Mirchi at 13 per cent and then Radio City. Early-morning, followed by mid-morning and then afternoon time band observed the highest listenership on total radio.

Fever FM ruled in Delhi, in a universe of 16.5 million listeners with 18.6 per cent share, while Radio City picked up 13 per cent share, followed by Radio Nasha. Night followed by mid-morning and then evening time band observed the highest listenership on total radio.

In Bangalore, Radio City held the leading position with a 24.8 per cent share in a universe of 5.3 million listeners. This was followed by Big FM with a 19 per cent and Radio Mirchi with 16 per cent share. Afternoon followed by evening and then night time band observed the highest listenership on total radio.

Radio Mirchi continued to be the leader in Kolkata with a 19.4 per cent share in a universe of 9.1 million listeners. Fever FM held the second position with 18 per cent share, followed by Big FM with 17 per cent. Afternoon, followed by mid-morning and morning time band observed the highest listenership on total radio.

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Private FM channels unsure about broadcasting AIR news 

I&B Ministry’s decision to allow private FM channels to broadcast All India Radio news on a trial basis hasn’t found many takers due to ‘lack of freedom and worries about monetisation’

prasar bharati

Private FM channels seem to be still evaluating the Information and Broadcasting ministry’s decision to allow them to broadcast All India Radio (AIR) News. 

Earlier this month, when I&B Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore made the announcement it was anticipated that private FM channels, who had for long been demanding that they be allowed to broadcast news, would jump at this opportunity to widen the content played on Radio stations. 

However, even though 242 stations have registered with the News Services Division: All India Radio (as per data available on their website), most operators are still evaluating this proposition. 

A Step Forward or Backward
If you were to tune into any FM radio station in India, what stands out is the lack of diversity in content as the same music makes its way onto the playlist of every station. Thus, news as part of the programming will provide variety. 
Most Radio networks in India are part of large media houses but they are not able to leverage this opportunity to curate the news from the parent company. In addition, carrying the same syndicated AIR news bulletins across networks would not help create exclusivity in content.  

If one were to look back, in November 2008, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had recommended that private FM radio be permitted to broadcast news. The radio networks were allowed to source news from AIR, Doordarshan, authorised TV news channels, UNI, PTI or any other authorised news agency. But in July 2011, the government changed the FM policy guidelines and allowed only AIR news – without any addition or modification – on private FM. 

Industry Reactions
Uday Chawla, Secretary General, Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI), said, “The airing of All India News by FM radio stations is part of the Phase III policy. The entire Radio industry has been asking for total freedom of news on radio but the Government was not keen on it as it believed it would be difficult to monitor Radio stations.”

Even though many radio operators have registered to broadcast AIR news, most of them are still evaluating whether to carry AIR news or not.  

Prashant Panday, MD & CEO of Entertainment Network (India) Limited (ENIL), which runs Radio Mirchi, said: “We are still evaluating this. It is unlikely we will broadcast though. I don’t see any pros at all in carrying AIR news, but I see a lot of cons. The biggest is that this amounts to private FM broadcasters amplifying the voice of AIR. Why should we? We are well equipped to source our own news bulletins. We use these bulletins to bring out newspapers, run TV channels etc. Why can’t we run the bulletins on our radio stations? Yes, if the government wants us to broadcast their news, we can treat them as advertisers and charge them our regular commercial rates.”

Nisha Narayanan, COO, RED FM said: “For the government to acknowledge that FM programming is incomplete without news is, I suppose, a step forward. But for them to insist that we carry only syndicated AIR news, and that too only “national” bulletins in Hindi and English, is a couple of steps backwards. FM stations pride themselves on their unique content and style of delivery, and this differentiation is particularly seen in the non-music elements of programming. To relay the same AIR news bulletins on all private FM channels at the same time (maximum 30 minutes deferred), especially in regional markets where they speak neither Hindi nor English, would completely defeat the purpose and damage our content fabric.” 

Asheesh Chatterjee, CFO, BIG FM, said, “Radio as a platform can be a one-stop shop destination for all valuable information. On our part, we are evaluating how we can integrate the news bulletins within our FPC (fixed point chart) so that it is seamless for our listeners.” 

Rahul Namjoshi, Business Head MY FM said: “We are still evaluating the proposal. However, at the outset we aren’t keen to carry AIR news bulletin, we are part of a reputed news group and would like to source news from there and package it in our style.”

The First Step 
Although radio operators may not be keen on broadcasting AIR news, Chawla said it was the first step forward, given that the industry has been demanding broadcasting of news for close to 15 years now. 

“The position that has been adopted is to take a step-by-step approach for news on Radio. The Government has also accepted not to charge for AIR News in the initial period (though it had proposed charging for the AIR news shared). From a strategy point of view, the first step forward is for FM channels to broadcast AIR news. As an industry body, we want total liberation and freedom of news but the only way forward is to go step by step and we have taken the first step.” 

Meanwhile, Panday said, “If the government wants to allow us news, they can do it with the stroke of a pen. The government must have confidence in us. We are all responsible organisations.”
While creating a time slot for the bulletins is possible by altering the programming, what also needs to be looked at is monetisation. Chatterjee said Big FM could look at RJs leading into and out of the news bulletin which could be monetised. 

Narayanan added: “By broadcasting AIR news bulletins along with their commercials–and some of those bulletins are 15 minutes long—we will not only incur huge opportunity costs, but the lack of our own sponsors will directly impact our bottom-line…The issue is mainly one of opportunity costs and loss of channel identity. AIR broadcasts 15-minute and 5-minutes news bulletins, on top of the hour, which is a pretty critical time for our programming. You really can’t start the clock every hour on a private FM channel with someone saying, “This is All India Radio…” What must be added here is that the channels have the liberty to choose the bulletins, including the duration, and the number of playouts that it wants to broadcast. 

As per the initial policy, the Government’s intent was to offer AIR News to operators at a sliding fixed tariff which could range from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 50 lakh a year. At the moment, the news broadcast is free of cost on a trial basis till May 31. Asked about what could happen post May, Panday said, “Prasar Bharati hasn’t clarified. But, there is no question of us paying anything at all.  

Chatterjee added: “Most FM stations will find it hard to integrate AIR news into their FPC and will only be doing it largely for consumer welfare, citizen awareness and democracy. This initiative will only be viable till such time that AIR news is available free of cost. The real step forward will be when the station is able to curate its own news.”
On its part, AROI is ready to take the next step forward. “We are waiting for feedback from the broadcasters. AROI will take up with the government any amendments, as suggested by the stations, such as having the RJs of the stations read the scripted news. This is currently not allowed in the policy and is a decision that has to be taken by the Union Cabinet,” Chawla said.

While the the Government is silent on the pay structure after May, radio operators are in consensus that expecting them to pay is unrealistic. 

However, the point to remember is that there may be a new government in place post the national elections and the new dispensation could choose to go ahead with the current policy and eventually allow private players to curate and produce their own news or roll back on the decision to air news, which would mean that it will be all back to square one.


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MY FM revamps its programming for Maharashtrian audiences

The platform will now have more of a local Marathi flavor on all on-air shows


MY FM recently concluded a massive consumer feedback campaign. Consumer preferences change over a period of time and in order to keep the content in sync with the listener’s expectation, MY FM did a massive 360 campaign “Aapki Marzi”. Thousands of people across MY FM listener base in Maharashtra participated and shared their opinion. Based on the feedback received, MY FM has expanded the Marathi content across its station. The platform will now have more of a local Marathi flavor on all the on-air shows.

The prominent new introduction in the programming lineup includes Unplugged Amey show “Wagh Cha Swag” which will be hosted by Amey Wagh along with the humour segment “Kaku vs Kaku”. New Jingle has been introduced on the platform and Marathi music playout has been increased.

The new show Wagh Cha Swag is a fun show around young Marathi achievers which will be hosted by Amey Wagh a well known Marathi artist, who is known for his amazing sense of humour and one-liner and has done work across various media. This is the very first time he will be on radio as a host. The two-hour show will be on aired from 8 pm to 10 pm. A Marathi sparkler "Kaku Vs Kaku" is completely inspired by the real-life aunts; where two women casually talk and take upon each other’s opinions while being intentionally unkind towards each other.

Commenting on the revamp, Vinay Manek, Programming Head said, “MY FM has always focused on broadcasting the content that attracts the interest of the listeners. Basis the feedback we received from our listeners in Maharashtra via ‘Aapki Marzi Campaign’, we have incorporated and launched new programs keeping their preferences in mind. With these added features we wish to maintain their trust in us and offer the content which they want to listen.

Speaking on the development, Rahul Namjoshi, Business Head MY FM said “We are customer-centric organization and our USP is the strong local connect that MY FM guarantees. Listening to our regional language has its own charm and with the introduction of new shows in the Marathi language will definitely be valuable for us to connect with our listeners’ ”

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Radio Mirchi starts operations in the US

The station will provide a mix of Bollywood music, infotainment and comedy


Radio Mirchi has started operations in the US. The channel’s first station went on-air in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on Saturday with a frequency of 1600 AM.

According to media reports, the station will provide a mix of Bollywood music, infotainment and comedy. The network will also air shows of popular Indian RJs such as RJ Sayema, RJ Rochie and RJ Shruti.

Media reports quoted Radio Mirchi MD & CEO Prashant Panday as saying that they are “over the moon” to finally launch their stations in the US.

He was further quoted as saying that “it is truly tragic” that there are very few radio stations with quality programming that cater to the South Asian community.

The station will also be available Raleigh-Durham, Baltimore, Philadelphia, among other areas.

Mirchi stations in the US will also be available online on

RAM ratings Week 1: Fever FM continues to rule in Mumbai and Delhi

Radio City leads in Bangalore, while Radio Mirchi continues to be No.1 in Kolkata

RAM Radio Ratings

In Week 1 of the RAM ratings, Fever FM continued to retain its dominant position in Mumbai and Delhi, while Radio City and Radio Mirchi led in Bangalore and Kolkata respectively.

In Mumbai, in a universe of 12.2 million listeners, Fever FM led with a 17.5 per cent share, followed by Radio City with a 13 per cent share and Radio Mirchi also at 13 per cent. Early morning, followed by mid-morning time band observed the highest listenership on total radio.

Fever FM held the leadership position in Delhi, with a 19 per cent share in a universe of 16.5 million listeners. This was followed by Radio Nasha with 13.7 per cent share and Radio City with a 13 per cent share. Afternoon, followed by early morning and morning time band observed the highest listenership.

In Bangalore, in a universe of 5.3 million listeners, Radio City was in the No.1 position with 24.5 per cent share, followed by Big FM with 19 per cent and Radio Mirchi at 16 per cent. Afternoon, followed by evening and then mid-morning time band observed the highest listenership.

Radio Mirchi continued to rule in Kolkata with a 19.4 per cent share in a total universe of 9.1 million listeners, while Fever FM held the second spot with 19 per cent and Big FM held the third position with 16 per cent share. Afternoon, followed by morning and mid-morning time band observed the highest listenership on total radio.


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We have undergone total change across all shows: Sunil Kumaran, Reliance Broadcast Network

Kumaran, Country Head - Thwink, Reliance Broadcast Network talks to exchange4media on the reasons for the relaunch of BIG FM, the changes the channel will go through and more

Sunil Kumaran

Reliance Broadcast Network owned, BIG FM, has announced a relaunch with a new brand positioning, tagline and a new logo. It will be the radio network's major and complete brand relaunch since its inception over a decade ago. 

The new brand image will redefine how radio as a medium can bring in a positive impact at many levels and will now transition from ‘Suno Sunao Life Banao’ to its new tagline 'Dhun Badal Ke Toh Dekho' as the new brand philosophy. 

Sunil Kumaran, Country Head, Thwink, Reliance Broadcast Network in conversation with exchange4media, opened up on the reason for the relaunch, the changes that the channel will go through and more. Edited excerpts: 

What was the core reason for the relaunch?
We realised quite some time back that people connect with brands that have a deeper purpose for their existence and it’s important that you imbibe what your brand purpose is. Radio as a medium has a fantastic role that it plays in the life of people. It’s always been a complete companion brand. The other strong aspect of the brand is the fact that it is extremely local. So you feel very connected as you’re hearing about things around you. The fact that RJs have a very strong following in their own markets makes the medium very potent. 

On the other hand, we realised that there is a digital onslaught that is happening. And in a country like ours that is going through some rapid changes, the consumers are feeling a lot of anguish and tension in their lives. They don’t know to navigate themselves as there is so much information, and discussions and debates are happening across media platforms. You look at the strength of radio as a medium and what consumers are going through. It is a great space for brands like us to play a meaningful role in their lives. 

That’s how the thought started. And we said why don’t we become the thought-inspirer in people’s lives? By that we mean, we will actually trigger conversations in people’s minds by giving people different perspectives. We are positioning ourselves as being the thought-inspirers and that’s where the tagline ‘Dhun Badal Ke Toh Dekho’ comes in. That’s how the idea germinated. 

What are the changes that the channel will go through?
Lots actually. Because we strongly believe that change can remain just a line in our heads unless it really plays out on a day-to-day basis on the product itself. We have undergone a complete change across all our shows to embody this philosophy of ‘Dhun Badal Ke Toh Dekho’. And you will see this change embody across all the shows we have. It will be built across every piece of communication. You’ll also see a couple of initiatives happening in and around that whole proposition. Some new shows being launched. 

From a communication perspective, we have launched a campaign called ‘I’m not sorry’. It talks about why people who have done things differently should not be sorry about having done it. Because that’s how change works. A lot of celebrities have joined the movement and it is becoming quite viral now. 

Is there a logo change (then the brand agency)? Also is there a spike in ad rates?
Yes, the logo has changed. It reflects the whole philosophy of looking at things from multiple perspectives. It’s bolder and brighter. The logo uses the brand colours but pushes it out in terms of a positive, thought-inspiring space.
In terms of adex implications, we have just launched the proposition. It might not be immediate but the perception in the market has been absolutely stupendous. Consumers and clients have really appreciated it. 

Will there be a change in the genre of programming and your TG?
It is not really about change in that sense but more about the conversations that will happen on radio. This will definitely change and will be around the philosophy of the proposition. All shows will reflect that thought.
Tell us about the marketing of this revamp and the activities planned to amp it up. 

We kick-started this initiative with a big campaign ‘I’m not sorry’. It starts from the premise that if you really want to change things for the better and the change should start with ourselves. It has really caught momentum and is going to continue for the month or so. 

We will do a Phase 2 of this campaign on the back of another initiative around the philosophy. 

How will this revamp be reflected in Thwink?
Everything that we do, obviously goes to Thwink. Initiatives that will go forward on radio and digital will be owned by Thwink as an entity and you’ll see a lot of activities from Thwink around the new proposition too. 

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BIG FM goes for brand revamp

The network is relaunching with a new logo, brand positioning and a new philosophy—‘Dhun badal ke toh dekho’


Radio network BIG FM welcomed the new year with the launch of #IAmNotSorry, a campaign to celebrate individuals who walked off the beaten path of life and broke social stereotypes. The campaign saw everyone from listeners to celebrities sharing their own life instances of #sochbadlo moments and are not sorry for it.

The campaign saw participation from celebrities such as Prasoon Joshi, Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu Nigam, Ayushmann Khurrana, Nargis Fakri, Richa Chadha, Ali Fasal, Sunny Leone and Sonu Sood. This key messaging will now form a part of the larger brand positioning of the radio network to encourage listeners to ‘think differently’.

BIG FM intends to be a ‘Thought Inspirer and an agent for positive change. This is the essence of the new positioning of Big FM – ‘Dhun badal ke toh dekho’, the network said in a statement.

Talking about the brand repositioning, Sunil Kumaran, Country Head, THWINK, BIG FM, said, “BIG FM is evolving with the changing times. With the new positioning, BIG FM will play a meaningful, relevant and compelling role in lives of consumers. It will not just be about entertainment but a brand that has a purpose. With its extensive reach, localised content and credible RJs, the brand will play the role of a ‘thought inspirer’ and an agent of positive change in society.”

“Our new tag line of ‘Dhun badal ke toh dekho’ reflects the philosophy that ‘changing the world for the better starts with changing your thoughts’. If we want real change, it is important that we are not rigid in our approach and thinking but are open to looking at things from multiple perspectives,” Kumaran added.

Sonu Nigam has lent his voice for the ‘Dhun Badal Ke Toh Dekho” song that brings alive the new brand positioning. The audio and video format of the song went live from 14th January on-air and across social media and other assets of the radio network.  

Realigning the programming to reflect the new positioning, BIG FM has refreshed the music promise, playing the favourite music tested with the audience besides bringing on board some big names from the radio and entertainment space across all key markets.

Vrajesh Hirjee will host 'Mumbai Maska Maar Ke' a fresh perspective on life in Mumbai.  Some of the iconic shows are evolving with new formats and innovations. ‘Suhaana Safar with Annu Kapoor Take 2’ will witness thought-provoking ‘dhun badlo’ stories from yesteryears. ‘Yaadon ka Idiot Box with Neelesh Misra’ in its new avatar will feature topical themes and new styles of story-telling. Movie reviews takes a twist with Padma Shri Bhawana Somaaya in a brutally honest movie review show called ‘Godmother of Reviews’ and fitness expert Simmi Sakhuja launches ‘Jo Fit Hai, Woh Hit Hai’ a practical and target based fitness regimen. The station will reflect the new positioning in all aspects of its brand and communication, the statement from the network read.

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