Cable TV

Hopeline success in FM private radio Phase II

MUMBAI: Tuning into the radio industry. The FM private radio industry is gearing up for a massive expansion. Radio Tuning in-Again, the session at the second day of Ficci Frames 2006. The panelists emphasized on the government looking at permitting multiple frequencies including granting of news and current affairs, HR practices, expansion of listenership and impending base for advertisers and a sophisticated listenership measurement system.

Entertainment Network Ltd ( manages the brand Radio Mirchi) CEO AP Parigi says that the various FM stakeholders have been hammering that multiple frequencies should be permitted, which would spur the launch and growth of niche channels in this category.

The demand of multiple frequencies from various stakeholders of the industry seems to be long pending. Though the regulator does not permit any licensees to own multiple frequencies in same city, the panelist urges the government to look into the matter.

Win 94.6 FM managing director Gautam Radia concurs with Parigi on the government to provide permission of multiple frequencies, which may witness diversification in content, which in turn may push the list of listenership.

Radia does not hesitate to point out that if the government grants the authorization of the same, it will come with 'a rider'. According to him, the government may enforce the licensees to operate one of the multiple frequencies to cater to the local listeners by conversing in local languages.The Win 94.6 in Mumbai, had to be shut down due to the heavy licence fee during the FM radio phase I.

The augmentation of niche channels is achievable if it is pushed by the market leaders of the industry, Parigi says, "The niche channels should be supported by the market leaders and profitable companies in this business during the infancy".

He briefly touches on the aspect of news and current affairs, which have been restricted to the industry as of now. He says if these restrictions are removed, radio can educate its listeners on locally relevant information and discussions, besides having a good mixture of entertainment and news.

The industry is concerned over the lofty music royalties. Recently, the Association of Radio Operators of India (AROI), a body of FM radio licencees, had decided to petition the government rationalization of music rights fee, tax sops. Radia mentioned that the soaring music fee is not affordable by players playing in the smaller cities and towns. Paragi agrees to the same and is looking at fair music royalties with the launch of new stations across 91 cities.

Big River Radio (India) Private Ltd managing director Sunil Kumar lay stress on programming, which to him is a 'challenge'. "The need to develop programmes in 22 major languages and over 100 major languages/ dialects," he says. Music scheduling software for radio, according to him is a 'no-no' as it is best suited for western environment.

Kumar believes that the objective of the industry should include amplifying the listnership and advertisement, establish brand and capture a defined segment. Besides, the above objectives, the industry has to tactfully combat challenges especially with respect to the HR practices.

Parigi points out that the HR practice has to designed in such a manner that it 'learn, earn and grown rather than learn, earn and go'. Retaining and developing talents remains a worry and has to be sought out with the best HR policy.

Besides, the challenges, the stakeholders are gung-ho about the future, which is identified as the appropriate place in the galaxy of entertainment. The size of the industry, at present, is pegged at Rs 3 billion, according to a study by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and PricewaterhouseCoopers. It is anticipated to register a robust growth of 32 per cent over the next few years to touch Rs 12 billion (nearly $270 million) in revenues by 2010 on the back of a robust economy and easing of stiff investment rules.

Media planners acknowledge that the advertisement base of radio is anticipated to surge with the launch of approximately 200 stations, which is likely to propel the development of the FM category. Insight president Raj Gupta believes the verdict is positive amongst the media planners.

Stating it as value for money, Gupta indicates, "Radio that has moved from background to foreground has higher affinity of youth. The youth category products are likely to migrate to radio." To him, radio will be the new habitat for youth.

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