The Anchor: 5 ‘must-do’s for the future of radio in India

12 Mar,2012

By Uday Chawla

 

#1 A level playing field is needed

Under Phase III, content freedom is still severely restricted. Only AIR-provided news capsules can be broadcasted. Current affairs and even sports commentary are restricted. There is no such restriction on print, television or even the internet. The government’s view is that a central monitoring system is needed to be put in place before news on FM is freely allowed. With the process on, early lifting of restrictions should be expected. (Even in Nepal, news on FM is freely allowed.)

 

#2 DAVP rates should be rationalised

Government advertisement rates need to be equal across all media, but currently they are heavily skewed against FM. For instance, local newspapers are given a rate of Rs.159 per column cm per lakh reach, while for FM it is over 10 times less even for a 10-second spot. There has been a high listenership growth in FM and on an average FM now reaches 70 per cent of populations in metros. In smaller towns it should be higher. The criterion for relative ad rates within a city amongst different FM should be logical and transparent.

 

#3 A transparent system for license extension is needed

Under the phase II policy, licenses were issued for 10 years, while under Phase III they will be issued for 15 years. A license period of 10 or15 years, with absolute darkness or renewal parameters, discourages away investors and bankers. Even now, phase II players have no idea on what or when is the license extension criterion, and thus making it extremely difficult for them to raise funds for even FM phase III bidding. The solution therefore lies in having prefixed and transparent extension criteria even at the time of allocation of first licenses.

 

#4 Developing and regulating human resources

With 800-plus new radio stations to be set up under Phase III, a four-fold increase, there will be a huge demand for radio journalists. Emerged and emerging content freedom means that a more trained and disciplined RJ resource would be required.

I believe content freedom brings greater responsibility on radio and incidents like the Darjeeling violence (caused by a derogatory remark by an RJ) puts national security and unity under risk. Therefore a self-regulatory content code needs to be formulated and implemented.

 

#5 Building Brand Radio

Currently Brand Radio is not top-of-mind, be it government or shareholders or even advertisers, and this is not because radio has less reach or is less effective than other medium. In fact radio is the only medium that can be simultaneously consumed along with other activities. Besides, it is also the only medium that can reach the most remote areas of the country and I believe that there is an emerging India in smaller cities and towns, which can be opened up through FM.

 

Uday Chawla is the Secretary General, Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI).

 

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