Nov 2, 2007

Sound of Music-- Whatte Fun!!

Being eternally stuck on the Hosur Road leading to my office in Electronics City, Bangalore every working day one thing remains a constant companion—my FM enabled Cellphone which helps to maintain atleast a semblance of sanity. From Pink Floyd to Kishore, Eminem to Om-Shanti-Om all tries to mollycoddle my frayed nerves due to the fri**ing traffic jams which is mainly due to massive construction and partly due to the nauseating traffic sense of some morons which thinks that the whole world is a pig-sty and they can do whatever they like. [Ok! Ok! Let’s not divert from the topic J ]. The friendly voice of the Radio Jocks and the assorted mix of music acts as aphrodisiac and shields from the madness all around. The radio ads sometimes are too loud but free-to-air means they’ll need some revenue generating mechanism to keep their heads over water and airing of ads takes care of that… and no major complaints about them except that they can improve upon the storyboards of some of the ads which invariably sound like they are hawking some ‘jari-bootis’ in a busy railway station J
Remember how the entire story of Lage Raho Munnabhai was married around Gandhigiri and how radio played its role to propagate it? Although the sour lemon was that they showed WorldSpace as a FM radio channel although it’s a satellite radio service.

The new-found pervasiveness of the FM radio in buses, cars, mobiles, shops, restaurants and homes kind of stirred me to do some ‘wiki’ search and find out more!!
MTV was launched in the early ‘80s with its broadcast of the song ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ and it became a kind of epitaph for the radio and its stars. Obituaries were written, people became nostalgic about the good times they have had during a lazy Sunday morning, with the sunrays bathing the verandah of the cottage and the bulky radio nearby… reverberating the whole landscape with the mellifluous voice of the radio stars… with some constant sound of static. Those were the magical days when radio was the only source of infotainment and was an integral part of popular culture with the radio taking multiple roles of a friend, philosopher and guide. AIR and Radio Ceylon created their own band of followers in India and it made the presenter of the shows nothing sort of demi-Gods. After all, who can match up to the honeyed, rich baritone voice of Ameen Sayani… a fact corroborated by the number of RJs who tried to copy his style!

But with the advent of the all pervasive TV and its glitz came the imminent death blow to the radio. The radio suddenly went into a black-hole of anonymity and slowly but surely was heading towards its final destination… oblivion!!

Every beginning must have an end and every end must give birth to a new beginning--- thus runs the circle of karma and fortunately the ubiquitous radio isn’t one of those glorious exceptions!! And off late the growth of the FM radio sector in India has been nothing sort of spectacular and it reiterates that radio is on its way back to capture the collective imagination of the people old and young alike. After the veritable debacle of the initial stages of the controlled allotment of All India Radio’s airtime blocks the Second Phase has been able to generate ample interests amongst the operators, advertisers and the listeners. This has been possible due to the changes in the policies and upgrading of the requisite infrastructure that has made the environment conducive for the viability of the FM radio channels. The key additions are-
Expansion of Network
Availability of Listenership Data
Rationalization of License Fees
Local Advertising
Satellite Radio / Digital Audio Broadcast /Internet radio

As a spin-off of the growth of FM Radio listenership the market for FM radio has gone up. Radios in various shape, sizes, color and design dots the city space… which is a welcome sign for all stakeholders that the radio is being heard and that too in good numbers.

The future of the FM radio sector in India depends on factors like government regulations, competition amongst the various players, the creative content of the programs aired, the revenue models etc. Listeners will be spoilt for choices and ultimately only the fittest will survive. Agility in planning and executing innovative ideas in generating advertising revenues, program content and hence standing out of the clutter will ensure that radio survives beyond the initial hype and hoopla. Various value added services like visual radio, internet radio will ensure that radio transcends its obvious boundaries to become something ethereal which will be like some sweet music to everyone’s ears.

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