Thursday, January 21, 2010

Radio Netherlands partners AIR for co-production

Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) has entered into a new partnership with All India Radio (AIR) for co-production of a show - Earth Beat.

Both organisations will work together in the co production called Earth Beat India. The programme will be broadcast nationally by AIR in English and Hindi every two weeks.

RNW had partnered with the Gyaan Vani radio channels promoted by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in December 2009 for the same show.

The Earth Beat team sees monitoring the earth's heartbeat as our task. They look at our footprint on this world and run stories of the people trying to make that footprint lighter.

Earth Beat India is looking at what we create, develop, conserve and destroy; meeting and challenging the people who are making these changes. It is about questioning the way we live now and exploring the issues that will affect our common future.

RNW offers international stories with new opinions, green gadgets and green wash while AIR brings the Indian perspective. This co production seeks to bridge the approach of developed and developing countries on environmental issues. The presentation is in hands of Chhavi Sachdev and Poonam Girdhani.

Commenting on the partnership, RNW Director General Jan Hoek says, "As an international broadcaster we make daily productions in 10 languages and we work together worldwide with more than 3000 partner radio stations. With this new cooperation we embrace our 11th language Hindi and a major party in India."

RNW works together in India with amongst others Private FM, IGNOU University Radio, various websites, cable TV service and now with State broadcasters.

Prasar Bharati CEO B S Lalli comments, "I am happy that All India Radio and Radio Netherlands Worldwide have joined hands in co-producing and broadcasting a series of radio programmes called 'Earth Beat' on their networks. The issues pertaining to environment and sustainability of growth are globally relevant. I hope these programmes will assist in promoting proper awareness and interest of our audiences. I am also hopeful that the two organizations will be able to expand the areas of mutual cooperation and assistance."

AIR will broadcast the English episodes of Earth Beat India from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Panaji, Shillong and the National Channel of AIR, while the Hindi versions of Earth Beat India will be broadcast from Delhi, Lucknow, Patna, Bhopal, Jaipur, Shimla, Ranchi, Raipur, Rohtak,Port Blair and Itanagar at the respective radio stations.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Brighter days ahead for FM, community radio in India

Although 2009 did not begin so well for private FM radio with the government adamant that it would not permit the broadcast of news and delayed the launch of the third phase of FM, the year ended on a somewhat brighter note. The shutting down of Worldspace Radio channels in India did prove a dampener at the end of '09, however.

Information and Broadcasting minister Ambika Soni told the World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit in November 2009 that a note was being finalised for the cabinet to recommend an increase in foreign direct investment limit and allowing Akashvani-sourced news on private FM radio channels.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, just last week, recommended that the foreign investment in private FM should be increased from 20 per cent to 49 per cent, following a reference made to it by the I&B ministry earlier in the year. This may come as a boost to the private FM radio sector.

And Airtel Digital TV announced that it would replace the 10 Worldspace Satellite Radio channels on its DTH platform with 10 All India Radio channels from 1 January 2010. This replacement would be automatic and at no additional cost for all subscribers of the Music Plus Top Up and for those who were receiving the Worldspace channels as part of their subscription pack.

A senior official of the ministry confirmed in an interview with that the FM Phase III would be announced within this financial year – that is, before 31 March. The ministry had initiated a draft Cabinet note on Phase III of private FM radio broadcasting which was at the stage of inter-ministerial consultation.

The official also said that the ministry was not very happy with the slow growth of community radio in the country since it had to be understood that 'community radio can change the face of local broadcasting'.

The government is therefore, according high priority to this sector and is organising consultation workshops in different parts of the country to increase awareness of the advantages of local radio stations. Beginning with one in Rajasthan (Tilonia) in November 2009, other such workshops were held in Meghalaya (Shillong), Haryana (Faridabad), and Madhya Pradesh (Chanderi), and Tamil Nadu (Tiruchendur) before the year closed.

A workshop had also been held earlier this month in Kerala (Wayanad), while four others planned so far were in Karnataka (Budhikote),
Maharashtra (FTII in Pune), Uttar Pradesh (Allahabad), and Uttarkhand (Tehri Garhwal) before the end of the financial year 2009-10.
Further, he confirmed that it had adopted a painless procedure for obtaining licences for operating community radio stations.

The ministry says it encourages setting up of the Community Radio Stations as CRS promises to provide opportunities to the local communities to express themselves, and empower women. The main aim of starting the CRS in educational institutions is to provide different and useful information to the people in nearby villages.

Although community radios were allowed since April 2005, the Central Government in December 2006 had liberalised the Policy on Community Radio by bringing in the civil society and voluntary organisations, agricultural universities, ICAR institutions, Krishi Vigyan Kendras etc, under its ambit. The policy was liberalised to allow greater participation by the civil society on issues of development and social change. Earlier, only educational institutions were permitted to launch community radio channels.

The government in late 2007 also announced that existing community radio operators can take advantage of the revised guidelines for new operators and get their broadcast permission extended to five years from three years.

Under the new guidelines,limited advertising and announcements relating to local events, local businesses and services and employment opportunities shall be allowed. The maximum duration of such limited advertising will be restricted to five minutes per hour of broadcast.

A total of 48 Community Radio Stations are presently functioning in 16 states and union territories which included 42 from educational institutions and six from non-governmental organisations. Twenty letters of Intent have been issued in 2009, taking the total to 189 LoI so far. A total of 584 applications, including 240 applications from educational institutions, have been received from various organizations for setting up CRSs. While 79 had been rejected, a total of 316 applications were under process.

Tamil Nadu has the largest number of CRS – ten, followed by Uttar Pradesh with six, Delhi and Karnataka with five each, and Maharashtra with four. The number of stations in other states – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal - varied between one and three.

There are 251 private FM Radio Channels in the Country, and the government earned revenue of Rs 1330 million between 2006 and September 2009 from private FM radio stations. FM Radio broadcasting was first launched in the country in 1999.

Private FM channels, supported by TRAI and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), have for long been demanding that they should be allowed to broadcast news on their channels. At present, this is permitted only on the channels run by All India Radio.
Earlier, Phase III of FM Radio expansion had been deferred to resolve certain issues primarily relating to royalty for music. However, the changes contemplated in the Copyright Act will help resolve this issue. The third phase is expected to cover a total of 92 cities, according to the plan drawn up by TRAI.

While the ministry wanted that the news, if permitted, should be taken from Prasar Bharati (All India Radio), the TRAI as well as FICCI Radio Forum have been insisting on news agencies being the source of news.

Maharashtra has the largest number of private FM stations – 31 – followed by Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu with 21 each and Rajasthan with 19. Kerala has 17 stations, while Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have 16 each. West Bengal has 15 channels, Karnataka has 14, Andhra Pradesh has 13, and Punjab has 12 stations.

Delhi has eight private FM stations, followed by Jharkhand with seven, Haryana with six, and Chhatisgarh and Orissa, with five each. All the other union territories besides Delhi have a total of five stations. Assam has four, Goa has three, and Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, and Sikkim have two each, while Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura have one each.

Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Uttarakhand do not have any private FM station at present.

The Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2009 Round 2 data on the radio industry, released by the Media Research Users' Council (MRUC) on 8 January 2010, again showed Radio Mirchi as the lead FM radio station across India. However, compared to the IRS 2009 R1 data (Radio stations - last one week), the listenership of the FM station has seen a decline of 2.36 per cent from 41,416,000 in R1 2009 to 40,438,000 listeners in this round.

What is interesting to note is that unlike in R1 2009, wherein almost all the Top 10 FM stations had witnessed growth, only two of the Top 10 FM stations have witnessed growth in listenership this time, while others have witnessed a marginal decline.

Radio Mirchi, Big FM, Red FM, Radio City, AIR FM Rainbow, Suryan FM, AIR FM Gold, Radio Mantra, Radio One and My FM comprise the top 10 FM stations in the all India market.
Red FM has registered the highest growth in listenership in R2 with a 24.15 per cent increase from 14,993,000 in R1 2009 to 18,614,000 in R2. Ranked second is Big FM with a listenership of 20,380,000 in R2 as compared to 20,381,000 in R1 2009, thus making for no significant gains in its listenership. Ranked third is AIR FM Rainbow, which has seen a marginal 3.88 per cent decline in listenership from 22,153,000 in R1 2009 to 21,293,000 in R2 2009.


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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Radio Netherlands ties up with Web18

Dutch International public broadcaster Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) has entered into a partnership deal with Web18, the internet and mobile arm of Network 18.

Under the deal, RNW's international news will be published on Web 18's portal Additionally, RNW players, with live radio and music programmes such as Euro Hit 40, European Jazz Stage and Live at the Concertgebouw, will be available online.

Says RNW director general Jan Hoek, "We want to strengthen our position as one of the five most influential international broadcasters in the world. One of the means to sustain that position is through investing in new digital technologies. This partnership in India is a big step for RNW, as it gives us access to the country's enormous and important online market."

Web18 CEO Lakshmi Narsimhan avers, "We at Web18 are extremely enthused with the collaborative initiative being launched with RNW. We hope this partnership will further the cross-cultural understanding among the music enthusiasts from both countries while strengthening media ties on a more global level."


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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Worldspace India team appeals to PM for intervention

300 employees of Worldspace India have, in a letter to prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh sent on Tuesday, urged for immediate government intervention to ensure that the the radio service continues in India; and that the exit of the radio service be allowed only after following the due process applicable to any other media or telecom service in India.

The letter written to the PM also urges the government to ensure that the sale of the satellite assets impacting the India operations is duly publicized in India; and a just and equitable solution to the employees, subscribers, distributors, dealers, vendors, customer service support agencies is provided for. The Worldspace India team also wants the PM to intervene to issue appropriate orders to restrict the reentry of Liberty Media/Worldspace from providing the services in the guise of a new entity without proper resolution of the issues as above and protection of the stakeholders.

To recap, Worldspace Inc which announced that it was closing India operations from 1 January 2010, had entered into a deal with Liberty Media for take over of its operations. While Liberty acquired the Worldspace India assets, in mid December, it decided not to acquire Indian operations, leaving employees and subscribers in the lurch.

The worried employees state in the letter that they are losing their jobs 'without proper notice, compensation or settlement of their benefits and dues. Former employee dues have not also been paid.'

The letter also mentions that over 150000 subscribers who have invested in the radio receivers and advanced up to 24 months of subscription charges in advance will neither be provided the service nor will be refunded the subscriptions advanced.

'The Border Security Force (BSF) has recently placed orders and purchased receivers and subscriptions. Government institutions/departments such as Indian Metrological Department (IMD), Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) and even Press Trust of India users are currently using the Worldspace satellite system to provide timely information. IMD and INCOIS are providing critical data and emergency warning to naval ships, coastal agencies and will now be forced to switch off without notice and any time to look for alternate options', the letter states.

According to the team, music labels and the copyright societies have not been paid royalties for the broadcasts impacting the music industry, widening the gap between broadcasters and copyright owners. More than 200 vendors who have provided goods and services to Worldspace may lose over 20 crores of their dues, they say.
'Several hundreds of distributors and dealers who are currently stocking the products after paying for the same in advance would also be facing huge financial loss as well as customer ire. Several hundreds of channel partners across the country who have invested heavily in the setting up of the infrastructure in supporting the installation, customer care and subscription renewal will not be provided any compensation. Premises have been taken in various cities for offices on lease basis and the landlords will have to approach the local courts to receive back their Premises. All stakeholders involved in the local operations will be forced to involve in multiple litigation in India, which will be rendered ineffective', the letter mentions.

While Worldspace and Liberty Media have cleared their liabilities including employee dues and followed the due process in every other country, certain loopholes in our system are being misused to escape from their responsibilities of orderly closure of the business. In the name of legal process and legal advise, they have delayed notifying the stakeholders and relying on the legal advise provided, as alleged by them, they have completely disregarded the due process of law and equitable interest of all stakeholders, while deciding to close the business in India, the team says.

'We, the employees also have to face the risk of facing all the legal action for improper closure of the India operations. The employees are at a huge risk of facing customer and vendor legal action (civil and criminal action)', the letter ends.

Liberty Media and Robert Schmitz the current Chief Restructuring Officer of Worldspace , Inc., USA wants to escape from the liabilities in India while retaining the assets for encashing the India business opportunity in India at a later date. the letter says.


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Radio City enters cyber space with live online radio

Music Broadcast Private Limited (MBPL) owned radio venture Radio City has ventured into the internet radio space with a live online radio christened 'Fun ka antenna'.

Although many FM radio stations in India have their presence on the web, Radio City could well stake claim to becoming the first Indian radio station to stream live music over the web.

The station, hosted on Radio City's website Planet Radio City, broadcasts shows for 10 hours from 10 am to 8 pm. These shows are hosted by different RJs for each slot just like a commercial FM station.


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