In the extremely challenging business environment that the COVID-19 pandemic has created through now virtually non-existent advertising revenues, the Private FM Radio broadcasters –who, incidentally, have also been suffering due to steep fall in Government advertising on FM Radio as also long delays in payments for ad services rendered to DAVP, NFDC and BSNL – have sought a bailout package for survival in the short term from Prakash Javadekar, Hon’ble Minister of Information & Broadcasting, through a representation by the Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI), the official association of the private commercial radio stations in the country.
AROI President Anurradha Prasad had written to Javadekar on the 16th of March, seeking a ‘bailout package to ensure Private FM Radio survival in the short term till the economy stabilizes itself’. AROI has request the ministry to grant the FM radio industry the following:
- A 1-year moratorium on all license fees and charges by Government and Prasar Bharti /WPC.
- That Government advertising on radio be restored (to normal levels) so that the industry can get back on its feet to fight and survive the current COVID-19-wrought crisis, and
- Clearance of DAVP payments that have been held up for a long time, which too would help in the survival of the private-FM Radio industry in India.
AROI writes to @PrakashJavdekar seeking urgent bailout support for #COVID-19-hit private radio operators; seeks 1-year moratorium on license fees, normal-level Govt ad releases to radio. 20000 jobs at stake. @MIB_India Click To Tweet
‘Private FM Radio under threat; 20000 jobs at stake’
This representation is a business-stress-induced, near-desperate measure by AROI to help keep the vibrant and critical FM Radio medium afloat in India, because, as the AROI has written, ‘The current and unexpected Cornovirus pandemic has further deepened the crisis with major cuts in advertising across all industries and services, including travel and entertainment sectors. This is resulting in an unprecedented financial crisis, with many stations contemplating cutting costs to survive, including cutting down on staff etc. The industry currently employs over 20000 persons and in (the) current situation it will be very difficult for the industry to sustain this workforce.’
‘Radio,’ the AROI has written, ‘is an important medium and is an essential service for providing information and entertainment to the citizens of India. This media now requires a bailout package for survival in the short term, till the economy stabilizes itself.’
‘FM radio’, Prasad wrote to the Minister, ‘has been an active and responsible partner to the Central Government in socio-economic growth of India and has also contributed immensely through responsible messaging in management of natural and man-made disasters’, and that ‘For the last decade or so, there has hardly been a single complaint on any content by any radio station received by AROI or otherwise, while many radio stations have received awards from the Government for helping fight various disasters’.
MEDIABRIEF view: Govt must provide relief to Private FM networks
FM Radio one of the most effective mediums of communication; one that establishes an immediate connect, is easy and, with well created content, perhaps the most delightful and naturally interactive to consume. But in spite of all the immediacy and effectiveness of its conversational delivery, FM Radio is still languishing at the bottom of the Adex heap, and has unfortunately never received the kind and extent of support it truly deserves from the government.
FM Radio is hit by huge license fees, and doesn’t get its fair share of advertising support from DAVP and other Govt entities; at least, at the normal levels that even the smallest of Print publications receive. For a medium that’s spread across 381 cities and towns all over India, (click for complete list per MIB) Private FM receives less than 4% of the Adex pie in India.
Adex forecasts for India in 2019 – INR Crore
|Source: GroupM ‘This Year Next Year'(adex) forecasts for India for 2019 (Released Feb 2019)|
This is why it is indeed extremely disturbing to note that even though the AROI had met with Minister Javadekar on 6th December 2019 too, to request for much the same support measures it has sought in its latest bailout package representation, it did not hear back from the Ministry, despite follow-up letters and, most important, the Hon’ble Minister’s assurance his ministry would consider that representation favourably.
Right now, the government is battling the grave COVID-19 threat which, obviously, must take precedence over all else. However, even in the current stressed scenario, we see it well within the means of the I&B Ministry to provide instant relief through a one-year moratorium on license fees and Prasar Bharti charges for radio stations, and to restore government advertising on Radio, even if it might need more time to clear advertising dues for both — past ads released by the DAVP, NFDC and BSNL, as well as the fresh advertising spots that we urge the ministry to re-introduce and release on all the Private FM Radio Networks.’