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2010 will be turning point for FM radio, asserts Uday Chawla, General Secretary, AROI
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PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Indian Entertainment and Media Outlook 2009 report says that the Indian radio industry had grown at a CAGR of 36.4 per cent over the last four years from 2004 to 2008. However, music royalty is still a critical issue.

In conversation with exchange4media, Uday Chawla, General Secretary, AROI, said, “Phase III of FM expansion will be rolled out shortly. The Ministry, I believe, is ready to move the Cabinet for approval and announce it shortly, and we officially welcome the Phase III rollout. The sooner, the better.” FM Phase III will see around 700 additional frequencies for private FM players and introduction of FM stations in 90 new cities.

Chawla asserted that Phase III would, in fact, be a turning point for the FM radio industry in India. “Phase III rollout is also likely to see sports commentary, news and current affairs being allowed. This will certainly bring a sea change in the industry, as a result it will follow the same route as television. Hence the year 2010 is expected to be the start of a big revolution in the Indian radio industry. FM radio can’t be just dependent on music alone, like television, it too needs a mixed content. Radio in India is already poised for a big leap, it has already overtaken magazines and should soon reach the level of television in the next few years.”

“We have requested the I&B Ministry that news on FM radio should be free and not limited, however, the Ministry’s point of view is to let that happen in stages. So, we can expect multiple sources or free news also in a few years. I believe that having no news and current affairs at all is worse than having limited sources. So, news through limited sources is just a start and will be in stages. However, there would be no limit as far as current affairs is concerned. AROI will have its own code of edits. We will be very clear that there shall be no anti-national, anti-caste or anti-religion sentiments,” Chawla added.

Meanwhile, AROI on November 12, 2009 will hold ‘Vision 2010’ in Delhi, which will be its official radio event. One of the objectives of ‘Vision 2010’ would be to discuss the way ahead for the radio industry and to see how it can be made a landmark year for FM radio expansion in India.

Chawla observed, “FM radio still needs to evangelise the medium, because while the listeners know what radio is all about, whether in metros or villages, the advertisers need to know more about the medium, that its able to reach customers much faster and have deeper penetration. I believe, the radio industry in the next three years will be between Rs 5,000 crore and Rs 10,000 crore. It will become a very major player and that’s why it becomes all the more important that the Government makes the industry a more level playing field and announces the Phase III rollout soon.”

Allowing news and current affairs as well as sports commentary provides alternative content for FM radio as a result of which the dependency on music reduces. “AROI is looking at evolving the industry into a major player in the Indian media market, and with regards to the music royalty issue, the matter is now sub judice,” Chawla said
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