One of our final activities in Chennai was a visit with Ramesh, Executive Vice President and Head of Content at a radio station in Chennai called Hello 106.4 FM. Ramesh focused his discussion on the evolution of media in India and how media is addresses the issue of targeting the extremely diverse population of the country. In India there are 500+ languages that are recorded and spoken with 15-20 different dialects. The challenge for Ramesh and HelloFM is to attract these highly diverse listeners and advertisers to HelloFM and keep them tuned in. It was wonderful to see the passion Ramesh has for the station and the power radio has to reflect emotions and feelings of individuals of many diverse backgrounds.
The most popular and common media source in India is newspapers. Currently, there are 80,000 different newspapers in India, the most of any country in the world. 100 million people read the newspaper per day in India. TV is also popular and there are over 800 TV stations available to Indian viewers. Radio stations began in India about 70-80 years ago. In the early days of radio, it was exclusively run and controlled by the government. The government felt it was too difficult to monitor radio stations and the content can be consumed by any citizen whereas newspapers are geared only towards the25% of Indian citizens who are literate.
Private radio came into existence in India only ten years ago. Phase one of private radio in India consisted of 35 stations. Ramesh states that today India is in Phase two of private radio and there are now over 400 stations across the country. In Chennai, there are nine competing stations and HelloFM holds one of the top spots in terms of popularity. Most Indians listen to radio over their mobile phones.
The most significant detriment to private Indian radio is that the government continues to outlaw the reporting of news and current events. However, visitors and callers are allowed to comment on their views and hold a discussion about news and current events.
As for the content, Ramesh focuses on “reflecting the mood-map of the city”. This means that the content on the air minute-by-minute matches what goes on in the city minute-by-minute. For example, in the morning many people pray and perform spiritual rituals so the station plays Tamil spiritual songs and in the late morning, the station targets working class executives by playing peppy fast-paced music to prepare them for the busy day ahead.
It will be interesting to follow the media industry in India and how it evolves as digital media becomes more prevalent. If you are in Chennai, please tune in to Hello 106.4FM!!