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IRF 2008: ‘Radio needs evangelists and believers if it has to grow’
Robin Thomas June 02 2008
The India Radio Forum 2008 held on May 30 saw the entire radio fraternity share the same platform. While many supported the multiple frequencies, they felt that unless the internal issues of radio were resolved, the multiple frequencies would only harm the industry.
This is the seventh year of privatisation of the radio industry in India and second year of Phase II of FM expansion. The revenue is already growing at 40 per cent, which is by far higher than any other medium, say radio experts. They also reiterated that radio had the highest penetration in the country with FM stations penetrating 70 per cent of the market covering 68 per cent of the urban population.
However, despite these impressive figures, there was concern that advertising in radio was a mere 3 per cent.
The opening session at the India Radio Forum 2008 was moderated by Atul Phadnis, CEO, Media E2E, while the panellists included Abraham Thomas, COO Red FM; Apurva Purohit, CEO, Radio City; M Sebastian, MD, WorldSpace Satellite Radio; Prashant Panday, CEO, Radio Mirchi; Tarun Katial, COO, Big FM; Vineet Singh Hukmani, CEO, Radio One; and Anil Srivatsa, COO, Radio Today.
Apurva Purohit observed, “Radio reach is second only to television in India, and has the least ad avoidance compared to any medium, including new media. Even IPL, which had disrupted the GEC ratings, had no impact on radio.”
However, advertising on radio remained low, she said, citing factors like restrictive Government policies, no networking, no news, limited FDI and no multiple licensing as reasons for this low advertising.
Blaming the radio industry for all the flaws, Purohit said, “Radio needs evangelists and believers if it has to grow.”
Tarun Katial flayed the industry for not investing in people and entering the advertising business with dollars in their eyes, therefore, lacking leadership.
What lies ahead?
According to Prashant Panday, “TRAI recommendations are good as they address the core issues that will help the industry grow further.” He added that TRAI had taken the right step by supporting multi licensing.
Katial felt that radio stations needed to look at their current frequencies and consider some serious consolidations. He said, “Radio needs and should get new frequencies.”
Vineet Singh Hukmani said, “We need to invest in the genre. We are afraid to take risks and that’s the problem. Look at KBC or IPL, they are such innovative shows and were big risks, which eventually saw success. Radio as a medium is growing faster than anyone else, so we should ask the Government why television is given all the benefits. It needs a level playing field.”
Abraham Thomas, too, felt that radio as a medium should be allowed to grow. He added, “In a lot of markets, the small players in the industry don’t have the revenues. This must change.”
Refuting assumptions that satellite radio didn’t see eye to eye with FM stations M Sebastian said, “We love you, and look forward to business proposals with the FM channels”.
Does RAM really help?
Radio Audience Measurement (RAM) came under the scanner in the second session of the morning. The session was moderated by Praveen Tripathy, CEO, Hansa Consulting, while the panellists included Anuj Singh, National Marketing Head, Red FM; LV Krishnan, CEO, TAM Media Research (India); Mallikarjun Das, Director, Madison Media Research Centre; and Tina Singh, Head - Corporate Brand, ICICI.
Praveen Tripathy kicked off the session with the crucial question – how much does RAM help in selling the medium?
To this, Anuj Singh replied, “We are in the business of selling to the audience as a broadcaster. RAM has been widely accepted by broadcasters and clients alike. RAM has become a win-win situation for the radio industry.” Speaking on the measurement service, he said, “Treatment of the content makes the show attractive, and this is what each station is doing. Sadly, you can’t measure a small quantity. Comparing radio with television, Singh said, “Television, too, has several channels, which have viewer loyality. How each station treats its loyal listeners makes the difference.”
According to LV Krishnan, “Migration of audience must be made resourceful. The audience just wants entertainment, and it could be either in the form of RJs or through music alone.” Regarding news and current affairs in FM stations, he said, “85 per cent of the listeners are at home, so, if you’re giving news to the listeners they’d better switch on their television sets.”
Commenting on whether radio helped brands grow, Tina Singh said, “Radio does help brands grow as compared to other mediums.” Citing the example of ICICI’s Raksha Bandhan campaign, Singh said that the company had run advertisements on various FM stations and spent huge amount on the ads, thus witnessing growth in the sales.
Summing up the discussion, Tripathy said, “At present, RAM is evolving and radio works well for some brands, while not as effective as others, Radio stations are using these data to create better programming.”