The radio boom: Trendy in, traditional out | india | Hindustan Times
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The radio boom: Trendy in, traditional out

Celebrity hosts, jazzy jingles and big ticket prizes have changed the face of Indian radio.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2007 16:17 IST

Celebrity hosts, jazzy jingles and big ticket prizes have changed the face of Indian radio since it was deregulated but some musicians and fans fear the facelift has come at the expense of traditional music.

Six years ago, India said goodbye to the days when airwaves were ruled by state-run All India Radio with its staid news coverage and classical music recitals.

An auction of three dozen FM licences in 2000 started what is now being called India's "radio boom". The number of stations is set to swell by another 245 soon as India implements the second phase of its FM expansion plan.

"In the old days ... listeners would wait for their favourite shows that often came once a week. Now listeners turn on the audio station they connect to best," said Vehrnon Ibrahim, Delhi station head of RED FM.

But not everyone is happy.

"They (radio stations) mostly play Bollywood or pop music. Commercial music is not what Indian music is all about," said Anushree Banerjee of Music Today, a company which promotes classical Indian music.

"Why are we seeing so many fusion albums these days? It's only because traditional musicians are trying to create popular music to reach out to the masses through radio."

Radio stations deny they are restricting choice.

"We have to play Bollywood themes and hit songs because people want to listen to them," said Murali Muktapuram, Delhi station head of newly launched Radio One.

"If tomorrow people want classical music, we will play that too. But to satisfy 10 people, I can't lose out on the other 90."

In the past radio presenters in India were cult figures and people flooded stations with hand written letters requesting songs or expressing opinions.

Now feedback is more likely to come through an SMS.

"People used to follow radio religiously," said Ranjit Singh, a 57 year-old businessman. "From news to songs, radio was a lifeline for us."