Only 2% of radio stations are dedicated to news

As kids we grew up listening to just one radio station – All India Radio. The tone of every news bulletin, every jockey was the same – monotonous. It wasn’t even clear if the news item was good news or bad news.

With the air waves opening up in India we finally got many radio stations. Bangalore got India’s first private FM station, Radio City on July 3, 2001. Arun Katiyar was the station director of Radio City, a good friend of mine from his India Today days.

An educative article about radio media in India (Jarring Notes, Businessworld, 25 April 2011) talks about the current scene of radio in India,

  • There are as many as 245 FM stations covering more than 80 towns and cities of India.
  • Radio has more listeners and revenues now.
  • FM penetration in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore has gone from 59 per cent in 2007 to 77 per cent in 2011
  • Revenues grew by 24 per cent from Rs 810 crore in FY2010 to Rs 1,000 crore in FY2011
  • Private radio channels are limited to playing music because news is disallowed. Sometimes cricket scores and some headlines are slipped in.
  • Radio stations want to carry local news, but they are not allowed.Only All India Radio can have a news bulletin. Govt is willing to allow FM stations to carry news, but they need to read out the capsules sent by the govt.
  • World over, only 2 per cent stations are dedicated to news. A pure news radio station is not viable today, but FM stations want to carry news bulletins.
  • Radio audience measurement (RAM) data shows a 30-40 per cent growth in listenership. Thanks to the traffic snarls radio listenership is bound to increase.
  • Radio operators in Tier II towns performed better than the metro stations, clocking 40-45 per cent growth rates with static costs. Again, Tier II towns seem to be rescuing yet another business.
  • The article mentions diversity is the key. They should be allowed to start a “Tamil” music chna

Advertising in Radio

As an advertising platform, Indian FM stations are still not the preferred choice of ‘local’ advertisers. They continue to be bit players in the national media plans of large advertisers. That makes it two of us – radio and internet!

World over, local advertisers form the majority of the advertising chunk on radio stations.  But in India, only 30% of the advertisers are local, the rest are national. I guess national advertisers have deeper pockets.

The largest chunk of advertising revenue goes to print, TV & OOH. Internet in India still gets miniscule share of the total ad pie. In 2010, the total ad spend was Rs 25,000 crore and the two poor cousins – internet got a mere Rs 1000 crore, radio got Rs 810 crore.


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