Ankita Lahiri | January 8, 2015
Another wave is in the air. If everything falls in place, radio waves will overwhelm India in next six months. After a decade long wait, the government will now start the auction of the third phase of FM radio channels (phase 1 was in 1999 and phase 2 was in 2005).
The government intends to grant FM channel license in 227 cities in India. And the best part is that these channels will be allowed to broadcast news along with their staple fare of music. Initially, the news feed will be from AIR (state-run All India Radio) and later the government may allow private news.
The development of private media in India has occurred in phases. Whether it was the broadcast revolution of the early 90s or the revival of the radio in the early years of the millennium, each decade has witnessed Indian media entering bold new world.
Although the country was treated to daily television telecast as early as the 60’s, it was not till the early 90s that India truly opened up the broadcast revolution. The entry of Zee TV not only marked the start of private media into the industry but for the viewers who were earlier restricted to Doordarshan, it meant another alternative.
Even as it reached every corner household in India, private broadcast has seen many upheavals in the last two decades, including the shift from analogue to digital system (in metro areas), a fight over self-regulation and the more recently battle over TV ratings. With complete digitization, the television industry in India is set to go through another change.
However, compared to television, the growth of FM channels has been slow. The start of the new millennium saw a heightened interest in the FM radio.
Back in 1993, Times Radio, now Radio Mirchi had began operations in Ahmedabad. Channels such as Radio City then entered the scene, bringing with it a new career option- radio jockeying. That was the “in” thing and every college going student wanted a part of it. Indian pop music had also reached a peak around the same time, with bands like Euphoria, Silk Route and The Aryans making a mark.
FM Radios not only cashed in on that but also on the debate surrounding Indian Bollywood music. Suddenly there was a whole lot of interest in Indian music, in all of it.
The third phase will allow private radio channels to broadcast news, a privilege that was held by the government radio channels. For AIR, which has the reach but the fears of it going the way Doordarshan lost out to the glossy private channels. Or will AIR, with its roots deeply sowed in rural areas, hold out on its own. For the private channels, who will get a character come this new fiscal year, will it be a battle between escaping the harsh realities of life through music or re-enforcing them with a stress on the news?
It is the need of the hour for the AIR, relying on its monopoly as the only news broadcaster, to evolve and reinvent. Alongside being the government’s mouth piece, it should create an identity to rule the waves.
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