Sanjeev Kotnala: ‘A’ Content In Radio. Should there be programme grading?

24 Jul,2015

By Sanjeev Kotnala


Radio as a medium is a delight for audiences. It is easily accessible, affordable and available. With Phase III licensing next up in time the situation will hopefully further improve on this front. Radio can be accessed on mobile, pocket transistor, vehicle and even stand-alone simple headphones. The cost of accessing is a big fat zero for the audience and its available across the licensed areas. Phase III will take that reach to 90% of population and give a thrust to the medium.


I wish it the best of times ahead. Soon multiple radio stations will fight for the advertising pie that would not have grown in ratio to the growth in number of stations. Product differentiation will be the initial mantra of engagement. Innovation and creativity will define the distance between success and a station also heard.


In this the decisive part played by the RJs and the content other than the standard release Bollywood music cannot be underplayed. May be in preparation of Phase III, some of the networks are trying to test the boundaries and their strategies. Like the real innovative ‘Kahani Aisi Bhi’.  Sincerely phenomenal good content and perfect time of braodcast. ‘UP Ki Kahaniya’ and ‘Maliska  Bajatey Raho’ are examples of excellent work in the radio space. The lovable ‘Mawali Bhai’, ‘Bakara‘ and  ‘Babber Sher’ are something you can listen again and again.


I mostly listen to ‘Red FM’ and ‘Radio Mirchi’ and hence my experience, the credits and brickbats are limited to them. They are doing a decent job in audience engagement, interaction and impact.


But, radio at times ends up breaching an unsaid ‘Lakshman Rekha’. I trust audience choice and have confidence in market forces to control the content delivered by media. But I fear that a sub-segment of audience may drastically impact the DNA of content in radio, just like the have done in TV News.


My reaction is experiential.


On Monday, July 19, between 12:30 and 1:30 pm, I was tuned in to ‘PRITAM PYAREEY- Bhabhi Ka Show’. I continue t o appreciate the harmless flirty banter that is on display. Though my wife believes that the caller is not the real Bhabhi. Anyway in that comes a section ‘BHABHI HOT LINE’ when audience dials in and then has a conversation with Pritam and this is where the edges gets tested the most.


That day, in this segment, some lady called and shared her biggest wish and her secret ambition of acting. Now on a normal day, this should allow an RJ of Pritam’s calibre a small opening for getting into conversation that would bring smile on your face. That afternoon, Pritam decided to check the limits – literally. He suggested that the caller Bhabhi and Pritam Pyareey should play Ranjeet; you know what he did and ABLA BHABHI. The set-up needs no further explanation. You know what will happen.


As expected, soon the radio waves were shamefully burning with such audio furry.


Kuch aur pass aao na. (Come a bit closer). ‘Mainey tumey aacha dever soch kar ander aaney diya aur yeh tum kya kar rahey ho’. (Thinking you to be a good brother-in-law, I allowed you to come in and now what are you doing). ‘Nahi Nahi, Kya tumhaari maa bahen nahi hai’ (No, No, do you not have sister and mother in home) and the famous line  ‘Bhagwaan key liyeh mujhe choodh do’ (In god’s name, please leave me). Trust me, radio if handled well, is a powerful visual medium.


Not that a radio station is not within its right to interpret desire and demand from the audience and create what they think the audience wants and will appreciate.  But this was definitely not cool. I found the choice revolting and cheap. Hence I raise the lone voice against it.


Saying this is common and acceptable in current times is unacceptable. These radio station ant to be treated as a real societal change agent. Then they need to behave far more responsibly.   In this case there was a spectrum of possibilities than to play the Raple of An Abla Bhabhi


May be, this is desperation. May be audiences want it this way. But as a marketer,. the question that haunts is – does the radio brand sincerely believe that this is what the best they could do! This is the Manohar kahaniya and soft porn is what they want to be known about.


Trust me, in this socially vibrant and sensitively alive media world, if the guard is lowered and self-regulation is absent at the radio station, then asking for external regulation and identifying programmes or stations with ‘A’, ‘UA’ will be one of the option worth exploring.


Sanjeev Kotnala is Founder and Head Catalyst at Intradia. A Brand, Marketing and Management Advisor. He conducts specialised workshops in the area of IDEATION (Harvest and Liberate) and Innovation (InNoWait). His focus energy in enhancing client’s internal team’s potential and capabilities. In process decreasing their dependence  on external resources. To contact email  or tweet at s_kotnala visit


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