FM in the North-East – a foggy picture

12 Jan,2012

By Robin Thomas


Phase III of FM is likely to bring more radio services to the North-East, a region known for being music-crazy. Currently, Guwahati, Shillong and Gangtok are the only cities in the region to have any FM radio services. While Red FM and Big FM are the only national players present in this region, the local players are Radio Misty, Radio Gupshup, Nine FM and Radio Ooolala.


The music generally played in these markets is a mix of regional, English and Bollywood songs. One of the major challenges facing the North-East players, particularly the local FM stations, is the high music royalty rates, and that revenue generation is comparatively lower than the metros, making it a little difficult for survival.


Nisha Narayanan, Senior VP Projects & Programming, Red FM explained, “Radio as a medium is very popular in the North-East as the North-East has a very strong music connect, it has a rich music culture. The drawback however is the lack of government support for radio in this region. Most radio stations in the North-East are local players, there are not many national players because they do not see too many benefits from these markets.”


Nishant Mittal, CEO Radio Misty said, “We are in Gangtok and Siliguri, and both these markets have been very good for us and for radio because the youth in this region are very inclined to music.”


Low advertising revenue

Most of the advertisers in radio are local, particularly from the retail category. National or corporate advertisers in radio are said to be very few in the North-East. The national-local advertising ratio of Radio Misty, for instance, is 40:60.


According to S Wassim Ahmed, Station Head, Radio GupShup, the spot rate for radio in North-East is even Rs 100 per spot, thus making it tough for the medium in these regions. “Regional advertisers’ response initially was bad. You cannot blame them, they were not educated about the impact of the FM radio. The national advertisers were equally apathetic towards the Guwahati market (North-East market is non existence for all the practical reason). The spot rate is pathetically low. It is invariably below 100/spot. Radio life is toughs in these parts of the country.”


The challenge

Some of the challenges for radio in the North-East according to the industry players are huge royalty rates. Revenue generation is comparatively lower than those in other parts of the country, and the challenge to get the right talent because of limited man power.


According to Mr Ahmed of Radio GupShup increased government support and minimized capital outflow will ease the burden of the FM radio business in the North-East. “For the radio business model to be sustainable in these remote parts, the capital outflow should lessen. Just like government subsidy is available in any other industry in the North-East, radio too should also get those benefits. Government support in terms of DAVP advertisements would be a great boost.”


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