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AIR’s revamp strategy

MUMBAI: Public radio broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) has been facing challenging times due to the stiff competition by private FM broadcasters across the country. In contrast to the private FM operators, AIR has been faced with complaints of poor transmission, lack of reach and of innovative content.

All-India-Radio-logoIt is for this reason that the radio pubcaster has taken it upon itself to improve the quality of content and make the best of the resources it already has.

With presence all over India, AIR is looking to design new content for its Urdu audiences, which a senior official terms as a big catchment area for AIR.

The radio pubcaster has not been able to monetise that aspect and now plans to build that space by developing a sponsor base and by launching interactive content within the next few months.

A well-placed source with the pubcaster tells TelevisionPost.com that AIR will soon foray into print publication by launching a magazine, which will also be available in electronic format on its portal.

Slated to launch in the next two months, the magazine will feature information about music, dance, drama, health and tourism from across the country. However, the print edition will have a specific target audience and will be available across airport lounges around the world.

A senior AIR official reveals, “We are in talks and are getting into an arrangement with the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs for the magazine to be available in the respective consulates as well. The magazine will be free of cost and we intend to monetise it through advertisements from sponsors and are presently in talks with them.”

Another area where AIR is looking to build its presence is the web, including social media. Therefore, it is also redesigning its portal in order to form two-way communication to earn ad revenues.

downloadAIR recently took a step in that direction by launching AIR News on SoundCloud. Users can now download and listen to latest AIR news and news-based programmes for free. Archival speeches by Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi are also being made available on this platform.

The move aims to engage 200 million potential listeners on SoundCloud. Within a week of its launch, there have been over 12,000 plays. On average, it is getting 2,000–3,000 plays per day.

AIR News DG Archana Dutta says, “We are still discussing if the archival speeches should be charged or made freely available. Our aim is to expand the reach on social media as it takes no extra cost and we can catch the interest of young listeners as well.”

In the last one year, the news services division of AIR has taken several initiatives to make its presence felt on social media platforms. Its Facebook page, All India Radio News, has close to one million followers; its Twitter handle has about two lakh followers.

On Facebook, the pubcaster also posts the top 10 news of the day following the 9 pm bulletin so that the youth can access news on the go.

According to another senior AIR News official, the move is in preparation for the competition that will hit the pubcaster following the FM Phase III auctions.

Other initiatives by AIR to improve its quality of content include the broadcast of a BBC-branded preview programme as well as of daily reports separately in Hindi and English on the 2014 Wimbledon Championships.

It presents the preview report in Hindi on FM Gold Network at 7 am and in English on FM Rainbow at 7:15 am. To be broadcast till 7 July 2014, the report will also be relayed on one of its primary channels by AIR Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Jalandhar and Radio Kashmir, Srinagar either in Hindi or in English.

Currently, AIR is also carrying special programmes on the ongoing Fifa World Cup. It is broadcasting live English commentary provided by the BBC till 14 July. Broadcast by AIR Delhi, the programme is relayed by all multi-channel AIR stations on one of their primary channels, all FM Rainbow channels and the AIR national channel.

Moreover, the radio pubcaster is airing a special programme on the Fifa World Cup 2014 daily at 7:30 am on its national hook-up and FM Rainbow network.

In response to recent reports of a large number of RJs being laid off, AIR officials said that FM Rainbow and FM Gold do not have sanctioned posts of announcers and that the RJs concerned left because their contracts with the broadcaster were over.

“AIR, like any other established broadcasting organisation, is professionally bound to review, recast and recreate the panel of casual jockeys every year to bring in fresh talent and break monotony,” an official explains.

AIR is planning to create shorter panels of RJs and western music presenters on temporary contracts to further professionalise the services and make such engagements cost effective at a time when the organisation is devising ways and means of enhancing its revenues and of curtailing expenditure.