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The BBC's Daniel Lak reports
"Now radio is following television into a brave new world of competition and chatter"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 11:32 GMT
Radio boom for India

Radio student Deepa Chahana hopes for a future in FM Radio
Student Deepa Chahana hopes for a future in FM


By Daniel Lak in Delhi

Faced with an explosion of satellite television channels, the Indian radio market is about to expand drastically.

The government has decided to allow privately owned FM radio stations in the country's major cities - up to 11 new stations per city.

At present, Indians can only listen to government-run radio despite having a choice of dozens of television stations.

Malhotra: Trying to equip students with radio skills Malhotra: Trying to equip students with radio skills
The radio is still where most Indians, especially in the countryside and among the poor, get their news and entertainment.

That is why the government has been reluctant to open the sector to private operators. However, that is all about to change.

They will do almost anything to get on air including re-learning how to speak at a college in the north of the Indian capital. Radio presenter Suchet Malhotra tutors young hopefuls.

"The way that they've been taught English in schools and in the colleges is not adequate for what they're going to use on radio," he says.

"So what we are trying to tell them is to equip them with the tools with which they can speak properly, how to pronounce words correctly, how to be good voice-over artists, basically."


You sit behind the console. You play the best of music for the best of people, for our listeners. It's simply nice
Deepa Chahana
All of a sudden, a job in radio is respectable. Indians, like student Deepa Chanana, are paying hefty fees for courses, run by a Delhi media company, to learn how to write and read for broadcast.

"The pleasure of being heard and not seen is simply great," she enthuses.

"You sit behind the console. You play the best of music for the best of people, for our listeners. It's simply nice."

However, what is called radio jockeying in India is far from lucrative.

Competition

All India Radio: Faces competition from young upstarts All India Radio: Faces competition from young upstarts
At the moment, anyone wanting the latest pop and Hindi film hits tunes into All India Radio FM - the government's pop channel.

It has made great strides in recent years and has a stable of professional DJs.

Everyone expects that it will have to get even better to stay on top of a rapidly growing market. Tapas Sen of the Times of India Group is an observer of the Indian broadcasting industry.

"The government has its objectives in social development, in economic development of the masses," says Mr Sen.

Delhi drivers could benefit from wider choice in radio stations Delhi drivers could benefit from wider choice in radio stations
"So they have not really been able to concentrate on commercial radio. I think the commercial aspect of radio is largely missing in this country. And that is what the private operators will be able to provide - rich commercial and entertaining radio."

The expected explosion in FM radio will be of particular benefit to one group of listeners: drivers.

There are more than three million cars on the streets of the capital, Delhi. People here spend a lot of time driving slowly - or not at all.

A little music to calm the nerves and smooth the journey will be a welcome development indeed.
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See also:
27 Jan 00 |  South Asia
India launches Kashmir TV channel
21 Oct 99 |  South Asia
India lifts Pakistan TV ban

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