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Let the music play

Priyanka Joshi  |  New Delhi 

RADIO: The forces of competition in Delhi favour greater airtime for music.
Shhhh... don't look now, but something's happening. The shy cousin of India's entertainment industry, FM radio, is busy making waves. Delhi has seven FM channels now, including the recently launched Big 92.7 FM and Radio One 94.3 FM, not to mention the irrepressible Hits 95 FM, which hit the air earlier.
Radio Mirchi, which tomtoms itself the loudest, professes to be unperturbed by the sudden burst of competition.
"We reach a total of 15.5 million people in the country, which is higher than a few television channels," claims Riya Mukherjee, vice-president, programming, north and west,
To claim leadership, the channel cites the for January-March 2006, which gives it a listenership share of about 38.6 per cent in Delhi, with Radio City second with 18.8 per cent and Red FM third with 14.4 per cent.
Yet, Mirchi doesn't deny the influence of the newer channels that appeal to listeners who want music, music and more music, little else. "We will make the radio jockeys speak less and play more music," says Mukherjee, "Even the time spent on advertising will be minimised."
For Abraham Thomas, COO, Red FM, what works on radio is now clear: superhit songs. "We consciously play songs that are chartbusters," says he, hinting at its value, "This way, the audience gets up-to-date knowledge of superhit music by simply tuning into Red FM."
Radio City, for its part, has bagged licences to broadcast in 16 more cities, and plans to air from Coimbatore, Vizag, Pune, Ahmedabad, Surat, Nagpur, apart from the smaller centres in Western India.
New kid on the block, Adlabs' Big FM 92.7 FM, on the other hand, is trying to use celebrity endorsement. "The station has plans to put a name to the face on the radio," says Tarun Katial, who heads Big FM, which has Abhishek Bachchan talking, well, "big", apart from a bevy of TV stars.
But radio is about sound, above all. And the forces of free competition are pressuring FM channels to play hit upon hit upon hit, since that's what gets the desired tune-ins (music-search surfing is a common phenomenon).
This is what serves to get greater listenership too. Radio's reach as a medium is on the up, according to all-India media surveys. Though national-sample surveys are not very reliable on measuring vehicles with anything other than vast audiences, the upward trend is indisputable.
According to a FICCI report prepared along with PricewaterhouseCoopers, India's radio industry is projected to touch Rs 1,200 crore in revenues by 2010, four times its currently estimated size.
Policy changes might help speed things up. The ban on multiple-channel ownership, for example, restricts the strategic options of radio players with a long-term view of the market's development.


First Published: Wed, September 27 2006. 00:00 IST