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The Sorry State of Radio in India!

Sorry State of Radio in IndiaA few months back Radio was supposed to be one of the main drivers of the fast expanding Media Industry in India. Instead it has turned out to be all talk. Now before you go gunning for my throat disagreeing with me, please remember I am talking about Radio in India as a whole and not the 6 main cities where there are over 5 different private FM stations.

What happened to all the players who bid for and acquired FM licenses in the manycities across the country? Why have they not started? Will they ever start is the burning question now. There are many factors that have brought Radio to its knees as a medium in India, the main one being Government indifference. 20 years ago half of India was illiterate. That was a time when the only information dispenser around for the masses was the State controlled Radio.

As the economic reforms started to take shape in the early nineties the media industry was also thrown open to private industry. Television was liberalized long before Radio. In fact even now the Indian Government does not allow private FM Radio Stations to broadcast News. They plan to change this shortly but I think it is too little too late.

We all talked about 300 new FM channels across India and kids enrolled into Radio Jockeying courses by the droves. New “Radio Courses” sprung up everywhere and everything looked like it was ready to take off. But take off it did not. What we see today is a vicious circle of No Choice + Bad Programming + Inexperienced Talent = Bad Radio.

Most tier two cities have just one FM Radio Station if they are lucky or unlucky depending how you see it. So whatever they put on air the poor listeners have to put with. No competition has led to poor quality of on-air presentation. Screeching RJ’s that talk too much and mostly crass rubbish are to be found aplenty in the Radio hinterland today. One sign that this is true is the relative success of the World Space Satellite Radio Service. People who crave for some quality radio have resorted to hanging little antennas outside their windows aimed at the skies to provide them with their daily Radio fix.

The Metros that do have a few FM stations have by default better quality of programming. One can argue that the smaller cities cannot sustain two or more radio stations and may be that is true but why has it all come to this.

The policy of throttling private Radio while giving Television a free hand at expanding is to be blame once again. Because the two mediums have not been liberalized at the same time one obviously rules over the other now. We have over 300 TV channels to choose from. Three DTH services + the cable guy bringing us a plethora of choice. Talk of Mobile TV is now doing the rounds.

Once that becomes a reality on the new upcoming 3G networks, we can safely say that will be the last nail in the coffin of Radio in India. May it R.I.P!


It actually is true. Radio stations these days are just playing songs playlists. Nothing much informative is being discussed specifically on private radio channels.

It's high time true potential of radio be put into use for the masses so that India Growth Story becomes real.

Gaurav Khurana
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