News, political ads…lot in store for FM radio

January 1st, 2009 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) For long private radio stations have blared out only music and other entertainment programmes, but now they will also broadcast news. This is among the many new chapters that the Rs.6.2 billion Indian radio industry will write in 2009.”Broadcasting news would also attract a diverse listener base and FM radio will be taken even more seriously,” Harrish M. Bhatia, COO, 94.3 MY FM, told IANS.

He believes the addition of news and current affairs would enhance the content of radio, “lending it credibility and authenticity”.

Abraham Thomas, COO, 93.5 Red FM, said: “I believe news on radio will be a differentiator for stations which want to be in the realm of news and current affairs, however not for more mainstream entertainment channels.

“Having said that, I feel it will definitely help drive penetration and open up areas in content, which were so far restricted.”

However, a statement from Anand Sharma, minister of state for information and broadcasting, indicates that FM stations will not be allowed to generate their own news and will have to outsource content from All India Radio (AIR).

This has slightly dampened the spirit of FM channel owners.

“Broadcasters would have preferred complete opening up of news and current affairs. The limited window - airing AIR news capsules - is not a viable substitute for private FM players to be able to interest their audiences,” said Anand Chakravarthy, vice president, marketing, Big 92.7 FM.

Prashant Panday, the CEO of Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM, said the sourcing of news from only AIR and DD would be a hindrance.

“Not only will the quality of news be mediocre, private broadcasters may be expected to pay for the news feeds. For most radio operators who come from a media background, this makes the news policy a non-starter,” he said.

But on the whole, after experiencing a promising year, private FM players should be looking forward to 2009, hoping that phase three of FM expansion in the first half of the year will add a lot more to the flourishing industry.

With a go-ahead to broadcasting political advertisements and a spurt in the number of general advertisers, the industry is already looking up.

“On account of the general elections, radio can benefit to the tune of Rs.500-750 million from political advertising. If that actually happens, it will be a blessing,” said Radio Mirchi’s Panday, who is also a senior vice president with the Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI).

Other FM stations like MY FM 94.3 have already witnessed a positive impact on revenues owing to the broadcast of political ads from key parties, including the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and even local parties.

In terms of general advertising too, FM players had enough reason to smile in 2008.

According to Chakravarthy, the year-to-date (YTD) growth of radio advertising till November 2008 was over 70 percent.

“Radio is seeing increased spends from traditional print spenders and even TV spenders. Advertisers are clearly seeing the benefit of FM being able to deliver superior reach to print with far better cost effectiveness,” he said.

Bhatia says the radio industry has also lately witnessed an increase in advertising rates and that, he believes, is indicative of the efficiency of radio and its recognition as a medium that delivers.

The radio industry is also rejoicing at the fact that the year 2008 brought with it an increase in the acceptance of the Radio Audience Measurement (RAM) as an authentic measurement of radio listenership.

“We needed a benchmark for the radio industry with so many players vying for the top spot and there was no uniform currency for it,” said Ashit Kukian, executive vice president, Radio City 91.1 FM.

Chakravarthy said: “This measurement system empowers advertisers to derive maximum value from their investments on radio. This has resulted in increased spends on the category as well as changes in rates and revenues of individual players in line with their station performance.”

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