The day was lined up with exciting sessions featuring the biggest names from the world of radio. The first panel on ‘Tuning into the Tiers: Small Towns Beckon’ registered the presence of programming heads from AIR, Red FM, Radio Mirchi, Fever FM and FM Tadka. Moderated by Chairman & Editor-in-Chief BW Businessworld Dr Annurag Batra, the panel discussed the evolution of content as radio forays its way into smaller towns. While the panel emphasized the importance of the medium, they also spoke of how in this digital age, content is no longer bound by one medium. Content is king, and the consumer will follow good content everywhere - is what all the panelists agreed on.
The second panel, titled ‘Mainstreaming the Marginalised: The Covid-19 Story’ was dedicated to the role played by Community Radio Stations in highlighting the accounts of those left on the fringe of society. The young RJs from Radio Aawaj, Dahod and Radio Mayur, Chhapra enthralled the audience with their rap performances and were a highlight of the day.
RJs Khurafati Nitin from BIG FM, Swati from Red FM, Stutee from Fever FM and Divya from Red FM had the audience enamoured as they narrated their experience of programming in the pandemic in the session ‘Connecting for Change: The Covid-19 Responsibilities’. Their anecdotes of carrying on and spreading hope in the face of the pandemic, while dealing with their personal difficulties, were narrated by them in their quintessential style and struck a chord with everyone present.
The next panel on ‘SDGs: Reworking the Communication Strategies’ discussed the rise in inequalities during the pandemic and stressed the importance of communication & collaboration within communities and the urgent need for providing easier online education resources. Moderated by Dr Kulveen Trehan (Senior Faculty, GGSIPU), the all-female panel comprised of Country Programme Manager, UN Women Dr Kanta Singh, Director of CEMCA Prof Madhu Parhar, MD of Sesame India Sonali Khan, Environment Education Consultant of UNEP Gayathri Raghwa and author of The SDG Toolkit for Community Radios Archana Kapoor. Panelists revealed how work from home led to a pause in community work but every media - community radios, TV & digital were used to focus on the socio- emotional health of children.
The day finished on a high note as Mr Sanjay Rajoura of Aisi Taisi Democracy moderated the panel ‘Being Funny During The Pandemic’. RJs Kisna from Red FM, Vidit from Radio Mirchi, Peeyush from Radio Nasha, Rahul Chawla from Tadka and Mr Manoj Mainkar from All India Radio stressed on the importance of humor in these unprecedented times and how finding hilarity in everyday situations kept them going during the pandemic.
While the one-day event concluded on the 13th, the TRF team is consistently rolling out various sessions online, to keep the celebration of sound on.
The pandemic helped TRF explore news grounds. Six sessions were hosted and recorded online. These included the following:
Is the New Story the Same Story: This was a real fun session moderated by Prabhjit Bains of BBC London and had as panellists Sidharth Jain (the Story Ink) , Nikesh Murali - The Indian Noir, Surbhi Bagga (Overthink Pod), Vineet Kanawar (Storytellers and Storysellers). Stories play an important role in our culture. The focus of the panel was on how has sound become the conduit of storytelling? Do Podcasts serve as the testing ground for scripts that will be adapted to movies and TV shows? There is a resurgence of the audio story, the audio book, the audio play. There are podcasts which have enhanced the craft of storytelling, and then there are those which try to reprogram tried and tested formulas for success. But more importantly, can audio upend the control cinema has exerted over storytelling?
For those who could not make it to the Festival, TRF designed a program on the lines of TEDx - Look straight at the camera. This session had speakers like Raunac from RED FM, Karthik from MY FM, Bhuvan Apoorva Jha from AIR, RJ Sarthak from Ishq and many others. The speakers were given prompts and they spoke to the camera and shared their stories of hope, humour and fun.
The challenges of selling sound during a pandemic forced marketers to pivot strategies and navigate through the new normal. The pandemic created a host of new circumstances for marketing teams including suddenly moving to a remote work situation, along with shifting priorities and fund crunches. What did they do to keep themselves relevant and their channels running? This question was addressed in the panel moderated by Nitin Mantri, the Founder and CEO of AvianWe. The conversation was stimulating and interesting with experiences being shared by Rajat Uppal, (Ishq), Isteyaq RED, Monalisa Mandal (FEVER) , Sudipta Suri (National marketing head-MIRCHI), Sanat Mishra (Radio City).
In an educative and informative session organised by the UNESCO Chair, lessons from across the borders were shared by community media broadcasters. This session also included a book release. The session focused on radio, and how it is reimagining itself in almost every way.
Yet another session on Podcast explored the boom of vernacular and regional content in the podcasting industry. While the diversity has led to more creative content, it has also enabled the resurgence of numerous folk stories. Is this shift just a good marketing strategy or is there more to it? Is the future hyperlocal podcasting? Do the new stories and audience lie in the regions? TRF was able to get important voices of podcasters and platforms that support regional podcasts, these included Padma Priya - Suno India, Rohan Thakar - Ep.Log Media, RJ Peeyush - Radio Nasha, Amar Vyas - Gaatha Story, Kiran Kumar – Dasubhashitam.
The last panel was an interesting take away of the pandemic: COVID-19: Radio's Finest Hour? With 83% listenership, Radio has kept its own mettle during COVID. In the age of digital boom, and a crowded media landscape, do these figures predict a boost in the popularity of Radio and Sound Festivals in the near future? Is radio catching up with the numbers of TV and is it more credible than the visual medium? A deliberation by Australia’s James Cridland, the only Radio Futurologist of the world, Anders Held from Sweden, Olya Booyar, ABU, from Australia, Philomena, AIBD, from Malaysia and Archana Kapoor Founder TRF, the discussion dwelled on the future of radio and its ability to survive this global crises.