Auds surf in on wave of FM radio stations

World Brief

NEW DELHI — After years of bland radio fare from national broadcaster Doordarshan, the airwaves in the Indian capital have suddenly come alive with modern FM radio.

Three FM stations launched at midnight on April 29, providing competition for state broadcasting channels AIR (All India Radio) and AIR (FM).

All three, backed by powerful media groups, are scrambling for the 1% slice of India’s 80 billion rupee ($1.66 billion) annual ad-spend pie that radio has cornered.

Media experts expect this to swell to 5% within two years as lively radio, complete with talk shows, interactive quizzes and music, finally begins to take off in India.

New Delhi, with a 14 population of million — many of whom spend hours stuck daily in traffic snarls — is an obvious growth point. On offer to listeners now are RadioCity FM91, promoted by Ruport Murdoch’s Star media group, Radio Mirchi, or Hot Chillies, from India’s Bennet and Coleman newspaper group, and RED, the pop music child of India Today magazine group.

Eleven players threw their hats in the ring when India opened its skies to FM signals in July 1999, but few serious players remained after the fledgling private radio industry began to choke on stiff license fees and a ban on news broadcasts.

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