Radio Column: Incredible India Goes Radio Ga-Ga
by David Ricquish
Map of India showing Radio Mirchi outlets.
© Radio Mirchi FM
Until about five years ago, 16 per cent of the world's population had
radio broadcaster to listen to, All India Radio. In 2007, things are
They now have half a dozen stations with a few more on the way.
Welcome to Incredible India - Where RJ's Rule.
Imagine living in a city of 20 million plus people [Mumbai] and
having just a
couple of different radio stations to choose from. Imagine only being
to listen to news broadcasts from one station, the state controlled
Imagine the excitement of hearing the same Bollywood hits on each of
dozen new FM stations now on the air.
Although radio broadcasting in India goes back to the early 1920's,
India Radio is more of a national institution than the BBC is in
Indians have been forbidden a deregulated and local radio choice for
Promotional poster for young male listeners Radio Mirchi
© Radio Mirchi FM
The strange result is that it's not until the 21st century, that the
technological superpower of India, finally discovers what the rest of
has known for decades. That radio can be fun, entertaining,
business and civil society, and deliver consumer and community choice.
1.1 Billion Audience
The rest of the world finds it hard to grasp that 1.1 billion people
India, and that nearly 30% of those live in urban centers. Hardly
name more than one or two of the top ten largest metro areas in the
having populations of more than 3 million people.
Take Pune for instance, it ranks number eight. Previously known as
middling size city by Indian standards [about 5 million] has just
three new private FM stations, SouthAsia FM, Radio City and Radio
join Radio Mirchi that's been around a year or two.
Promotional poster for young female listeners Radio Mirchi
© Radio Mirchi FM
Add a couple of All India Radio stations on AM and FM and an open
station, and that's the complete radio choice in a city with a
nearly a million more than the total in New Zealand - which has
The reasons for this late arrival of radio competition are wrapped up
combination of a BBC style public service radio tradition of which
would be proud, the sheer challenge of other priorities in the
society since independence, government bungling of the first round of
radio allocations, the power of Bollywood movies to deliver popular
entertainment, and the ignorance of local entrepreneurs as to the
of commercial radio.
In 2007, it's all changing. Says a recent report 'Celebrity hosts,
jingles and big ticket prizes have changed the face of Indian radio
was deregulated' and expansion plans over the next five years call
for AIR and
private radio coverage to grow from just 38 per cent to 80 per cent
than a billion Indians.
Radio City 91.1 FM Delhi promotion
© Radio City
Large commercial groups are building networks across the Indian
provinces, and even regional radio groups are emerging to serve, for
Tamil listeners in the south.
Virgin Gets Fever
Foreign investors, although limited in their ability to get involved,
partnering local companies.
Richard Branson's Virgin International Radio Group is behind Fever
Music & Entertainment Co Pvt Ltd]; Irish based Independent News &
involved with Jagran FM [Shri Puran Multimedia Ltd] - and already has
consultants from its New Zealand radio operations advising on how to
a commercially viable brand.
Annie Arakkal, Radio One FM breakfast RJ
© Radio One
photo by Aneesh Bhasim
Even the BBC is a player, through a Netherland based holding company
controlling 20 per cent of Radio One [Radio Mid-day West [India] Pvt
Ltd] - and
supplying music and entertainment programs in a commercial
would have founder Lord Reith spinning in his grave.
On the subject of spinning, there are no DJ's on Indian radio.
have RJ's. Radio jocks of course.
Gold Rainbows almost cover Radio Anna
All India Radio was given a head start to set up new networks, with
and FM Gold in all the major markets - city wise as they say in Delhi.
Their recent attempts to start up local community radio stations to
dominance have been thwarted by the government. No more, it said
after a couple
sprung up in isolated states.
Instead, colleges, universities, non-profit organizations and civil
groups are being encouraged to follow the success of Radio Anna, the
50 watt FM
university station from Chennai [Madras] that has successfully
manner of local programs for a number of years.
Gyan Vani FM is also on the move. With educational broadcasts
subjects, this open university network on air in about 25 major
expanding to another 11 cities, with even more to come.
WorldSpace via AsiaStar
There's more competition in the air, literally. WorldSpace satellite
offers some 40 channels into India via AsiaStar. With no commercials,
wide range of formats, it's proving very popular to savvy young
the metro areas, with subscriptions growing strongly.
Regional Operating Center, WorldSpace
© WorldSpace Inc
A recent report from Lucknow commenting on the popularity of
stated 'AM is virtually obsolete, FM, increasingly, is beginning to
get on the
nerves of people with so many adverts, an overdose of RJ babble, and
New Radio Dial and more
For now, AIR continues to expand its Rainbow FM network, and Indian
beginning to discover an FM radio dial featuring the sounds of Big
Mirchi, MyFM, Radio City, Radio One, SouthAsia FM, Suryan FM, Hello
Red FM, Hit 95 FM, Fever FM, Power FM, Amar FM, Visakha FM, Jagran FM
Oolala...with no doubt, more to come.
All India Radio maintains a traditional face, even on the internet.
© All India Radio
A large shortwave radio service continues to service mainly rural
digital radio is on the very near horizon, and more satellite radio
can be expected.
India's 1.1 billion listeners can expect more technology delivery
more music - some 'cut' and some played full length to please the
purists - and
greater choice of national, regional and local programs and services.
Incredible India not all on AIR
From an almost complete reliance on state controlled AM and shortwave
just five years ago, to private FM networks and satellite channels,
mobile phone downloads and digital radio in 2007, it's Incredible
Read the fascinating story of early radio broadcasting in India, and
for the story of the 'forgotten' American Armed Forces Radio stations
throughout India during 1944-1946.
The Pacific Asian Log Radio Guides have a complete
All India Radio stations throughout India on both AM and Shortwave,
details of broadcast hours, frequencies, locations and other useful
NEW! Coming later in 2007, a full listing of FM stations in India as
the new PAL FM Radio Guide.