| 19 Apr 2024
Rewind '09 - Radio events that defined '09

MUMBAI: Some of these events that caused ripples in the radio industry in India last year, involved people, some were policy changes and some were just developments that took their time happening.

All in all, these were events that shaped the way radio last year and will mould the industry in 2010. presents a quick recap, in no particular order -

1) Abraham Thomas bid adieu to Red FM

After nurturing Red FM from its inception the station's COO Abraham Thomas bid farewell to the station in November 2009. Abe, as he is known in the industry, took over Red FM when it ran just three stations in 2005, saw it climb to number one position, and oversaw its merger with sister brand SFM earlier in 2009, bringing with it its own 40 odd stations under the hugely popular Red FM brand.

With Abe's exit, speculation was rife that he could move, along with a few die hard loyalists to another station. But 2010 has arrived without the advertising-TV-radio veteran announcing where he's headed, insisting he's still on a sabbatical.

One thing's for sure - Red FM won't be the same without him any more.

2) SFM rebranded as Red FM

In what was pegged as one of the biggest rebranding exercises across private radio stations, all the 38 stations of SFM, a Sun Network radio venture - which comprise 23 stations of South Asia FM (SAFL), 14 stations of Kal
Radio and one station of Udaya FM - were rebranded as Red FM on 15 August 2009.

With this, the rebranded Red FM became a huge network with a total of 41 stations in its kitty, including Red's existing stations in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. The rebranding exercise was comprehensive and incorporated the Red FM DNA into all the other stations in programming style, content, format and presentation and entailed complete re-training of the staff including the RJs, station heads, sales and marketing teams.

In terms of listenership, if one goes by the RAM data, not much has changed for the SFM stations at least in the metros - audiences haven't really flocked to the made over stations. As for Red - it's Bajaate Raho time as usual.

3) RJs Jaggu and Tarana bid adieu to Radio One

After seven long years of entertaining an entire radio generation, Radio Mid-day turned Go turned Radio One's popular morning jock jodi Jaggu and Tarana quit the station by the end of June 2009.

The well known RJ jodi who co-hosted the breakfast show, �Good Morning Mumbai' from 7 am – 11 am, made way for Devaki, brought in Ahmedabad. Industry buzz insisted that the two were taken off due to falling listenership figures, but loyal Jaggu Tarana fans blogged and wrote in saying how much they were missed. As for Devaki, despite the initial hoopla, she failed to generate much interest among Mumbai listeners.

4) Essel Group surrenders Phase-II licenses

After months of dithering, Pan India Network Infravest Private Limited (an Essel Group company) surrendered its five licenses for phase II of FM radio in July 2009. The other three licenses were returned in 2008 itself.

Although the Subhash Chandra led Essel Group had acquired eight frequencies by bidding in Phase-II in 2006, none of the stations went full fledged live on air, even though a whole team was acquired to man the venture. On 15 May 2009, the group was asked to furnish the requisite information before its 'request for acceptance for termination notice'is considered by the I and B ministry.

Mentioned as Z-FM on the I&B website, the Essel stations were to be run in Allahabad, Amritsar, Agra, Patiala and Varanasi. Essel Group had returned their licenses in Jalgaon, Akola and Nanded to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry in May 2008 citing the non feasiblity of business in these three stations. The group had spent around Rs 113 million approximately for acquiring these licenses in Phase –II.

The development definitely doesn't bode well for the proposed phase III of the FM policy.

5) RAPA cancels awards in 2009

For the first time in 33 years, Rapa (The Radio and TV Advertising Professionals Association of India Ltd) awards, scheduled for September, were finally canceled in 2009. Internal issues in the organisation were believed to be the reason for the cancellation of the event this year. Issues began when the limited company was converted into a trust and conflict of ideas erupted in the managing committee.

Although the organisation was formed in 1974, Rapa operated from the ruling president's office and didn't have a place of it own for the past 35 years. It was this year that Rapa set up its commercial office in Mahim and also registered itself as a trust in June 2009 from being a limited company for financial transparency 

For many radio stations, including the government run All India Radio, the Rapa awards were a much-anticipated annual event as they honoured the best of programming and advertising talent on air.

Perhaps, 2010 will be a better year for Rapa.

6) Worldspace India downs shutters

Much to the dismay of its loyal band of listeners, satellite broadcaster Worldspace  terminated its India services from 31 December 2009, making it an extremely bitter New Year's eve for employees and listeners alike.

This action is an offshoot of the financial difficulties facing Worldspace India's parent company, Worldspace, Inc., which has been under bankruptcy protection since October 2008.

Worldspace is present in over 130 countries globally, and has already been in the process of closing down its operations in most other countries. With over 4,50,000 subscribers (more than 50 per cent of this is through Airtel DTH), India accounted for over 95 per cent of the broadcaster's world-wide subscriber base.

With the only broadcaster that played differentiated music on all its 200 channels now out of service, listeners have no option but to fall back on FM channels. Or, will this force the FM channels to take a cue and opt for some differentiated content? 2010 should tell.

7) I&B ministry allows news on private FM, but....

Information and Broadcast minister Ambika Soni proposed via media broadcast of news on private FM stations in the latter part of the year. The ministry says it feels that a via media should be found where the channels can be permitted to broadcast some programmes other than just playing music. The government is expected to follow the recommendations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on allowing news from Doordarshan, All India Radio and accredited newswire agencies to be carried by private FM stations.

More than three years ago, the Prime Minister's information, communication and entertainment committee had cleared the proposal to permit news in private FM radio stations. Currently, only AIR is allowed to broadcast news and current affairs programmes  Private FM stations can air only non-news content.

In December, there was also a buzz that sports news may be allowed independently on private FM. There was also a buzz that the government may even relax the FDI ceiling on FM radio from the current 20 per cent. The picture should become clearer in the first quarter of 2010.

8) Copyright Board intervenes in music -radio spat

The radio industry was disappointed this year with the hearings of the Copyright Board, which had stepped in to resolve the long festering issue of music royalties payable by the radio industry to the licensing bodies of the music industry. The industry expressed its displeasure over the slow procedure adopted by the music industry. The delay in Copyright Board hearings claims to affect the participation of existing and new players in Phase III. Many radio players including Radio Mirchi have refused to enter Phase III without a solution on the royalty end.

The hearings ended with an announcement that they would be taken up again in mid March 2010. Looks like this one's set for a long innings in the courts.

9) UK based United Radio launches India operations

London headquartered United Radio became the first international radio consultancy company to set up an office in India in November 2009. Indian radio stations can now look to the international experience to improve their ratings and increase their revenues.

The company aims to provide its services to the existing operators, investors, government and the regulatory bodies. United Radio has been the consultant to Malayalam Manorma's Radio Mango and Radio City for their programming and music strategies in the past. United Radio is also in talks with several companies in India to set up India's first Radio News agency, which will provide content for news and current affair activities either directly to radio stations or through All India Radio.

10) Changes afoot at Meow FM

COO Anil Srivatsa's resignation meant a subtle goodbye to the India Today group's plan of having a niche radio station in India run smoothly.

Srivatsa was brought in from the US in 2007 to launch the country's first and only talk radio statin targeted at women, one that would play just 20 per cent music and concentrate on chat.

At Meow, Srivatsa also hosted the late night talk show Between The Sheets, which talked about the softer side of a woman - her sexuality, sensuality and the various problems she faces. After Srivatsa quit in June, Meow appears to have metamorphosed into just another station, playing Bollywood most of the time, and having given up on its core audience - women. While the grapevine buzzes with speculations that the group has great plans for Meow in 2010 (Radio One's Vehrnon Ibrahim has already joined as national programming director), no one is willing to talk officially.

As for Srivatsa, he later plunged into the world of cricket joining the IPL team Kings XI Punjab as CEO.