By Radhika Bhirani
New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) The growing reach of private FM radio is expected to find political expression for the first time in India as parties tap it for their campaigns, bringing in welcome revenue to the Rs.8.3 billion/$165 million radio industry in the country.
Prashant Panday, CEO of Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM, says: "I have no doubt that there will be revenue generation to the tune of Rs.400-500 million (Rs.40-50 crore) in the radio industry (through on-air political ads)."
For the parliamentary polls in April-May, most political parties are going to use the 236 operational FM radio channels across the country to reach out to an estimated 50 million audience.
"Many political parties realise the reach of the radio and the play that the ads would get and are warming up to the idea of broadcasting their ads on radio," Panday, who is also senior vice president of the Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI), told IANS.
Broadcasting of political ads was not allowed on private radio stations until 2005 when the second phase of FM radio privatisation was rolled out. This is the first time general elections will be held after that.
Prior to this, only stations like the All India Radio (AIR) or BBC's Hindi station used to air such campaigns.
Taking advantage of the new development, most major parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as well as a few regional parties are already making use of the facility.
According to Ashit Kukian, executive vice president - national head (Sales), Radio City 91.1 FM, "There is a sudden buzz among various parties to advertise on radio.
"We are expecting a lot. I think the amount of revenue generation after the final phase of polls could be anywhere between Rs.30-35 crores (Rs.300-350 million). But since the first phase hasn't started yet, there's hardly anything to comment now," he said.
Panday says radio is an effective medium for more localised advertisements as every region has a separate radio station unlike the centralised televis