Much needs to be done to make radio top-of-mind: Anurradha Prasad

17 Feb,2012

Anurradha Prasad is the Chairperson cum Managing Director, B.A.G Network. She is also the President of Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI). In conversation with MxM India’s Robin Thomas, Ms. Prasad spoke at length on the overall FM phase III developments, self regulation for FM radio in India, the challenges and road ahead for the radio industry in India.


With positive changes such as the Union Cabinet accepting Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s (MIB) FM phase III proposal, FDI limit being raised marginally, news to be allowed on private radio stations, and government’s nod to e-auction, as the AROI President, what are your views on the overall development in the industry?

Phase III is an important step forward in the development of radio industry in India. However, much more needs to be done to make radio a top-of-mind media for Government and Advertisers.


How could it have been better?

Issues such as extension of time period and the resulting extension fees for existing radio operators have not been addressed. Phase III players will get a 15-year license, as was repeatedly demanded by AROI. However, the existing operators, who convinced the Government that the 10-year period is too less for even recuperate investments, feel let down due to this. Further content freedom allowed to all other media continues to be denied to FM radio.


When is FM phase III expected to be rolled out? What are your expectations from it?

The MIB has already constituted inter-ministerial committees to execute the policy. Time lines can be best advised by them.


The government seems to be reluctant in allowing complete independence to FM radio on news and current affairs. What do you think is holding them back? 

The issue is of setting up a monitoring system so that radio content can be monitored by the government. Once this is ready, we don’t think government will have any reason to limit news on FM radio.


Unlike the print or the television, radio is said to be a highly regulated medium. Shouldn’t the radio industry also be self regulated rather than be regulated by the government?

Yes, radio should be self regulated and that is why we are formulating our own codes so that national interest is kept sacrosanct in radio content.


Can you throw some more light on the self-regulation and content code? Will the code of ethics be restricted only to AROI members?

We will share details once the code is formulated and approved by the members. As all operators are members, there is no distinction between AROI and the industry.


RJ Mentions is seen by some as a breach of ethics, especially because the station fails to inform the listeners that it is a plug. Do you agree?

We cannot generalize as this can be decided only on a case to case basis. But we will formulate guidelines.


Do you think radio stations are far too much dependent of advertising revenues? Are there any other sources of revenues that can be explored? 

It is a fact that all forms of media are dependent on advertisements. Radio, being free to air, is slightly more dependent. However, radio will open up over 200 new markets this year to marketers. I think the immediate focus has to be in these markets. Combination of ground events, backed by radio, could be another revenue source.


Has the music royalty issue finally laid to rest by the copyright board? What is the revenue sharing ratio between FM stations and music companies?

Only those operators who had approached Copyright Board have got the benefit. The judgment is also under appeal from music industry. However, with statutory licensing being planned by HRD Ministry, the other operators can take immediate advantage thereafter.


What according to you are some of the challenges before the radio industry? What steps need to be taken to overcome them?

The main challenge is to change the mind sets, especially of advertisers, for whom radio is still at the bottom of their media plans. The industry needs to highlight the advantages of radio and showcase some marketing successes built on radio campaigns.


Is employee retention one of the challenges facing the radio industry? Is there a talent crunch?

There is always a talent shortage in media. However, like in television, radio, too, managed to operate over 240 stations on a non-existent talent base. AROI, on its part, is setting up a Skill Development Council for talent development, in association with Government & FICCI.


What is the road ahead like for the radio industry?

Right now the focus will be on closing pending issues – with BECIL, Prasar Bharti – as also the upcoming bid for 800 stations. In the longer run, radio is set to emerge as a strong competitor to both print and TV, with its uniqueness as both a local and national media, as well as the only media that is consumed even while consumers are engaged in other activities such as driving, working or playing.


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