The inter-generational differences of ‘baby boomers’ and ‘millennials’ came to the fore when former channel head of FM Gold and FM Rainbow Danish Iqbal and RJ Aditi discussed the medium uniting them – radio.
“We were told to romance the radio. And we loved and we were in love with everything - the sounds, the letters, the music,” said the boomer Iqbal, to which Aditi replied, “We go out and be ourselves. We entertain but we know what matters. Yes, the conversations have become casual, as we want everyone to be our best friends.”
In the inaugural session presided over by the CEO of Prasar Bharati Shashi Vempati, he narrated how AIR has come a long way in its journey and has gone digital to keep up with the times. “You can be anywhere in the world and listen to the voices from your hometown through over 200 livestreams.”
Director of UNESCO Eric Falt underlined the importance of radio in preserving the diversity of India. “With such an expansive reach, the onus lies on the radio today to ensure equal representation from every pocket of the society.” The spirit of diversity of highlighted by Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Atul Kumar Tiwari in his address as well.
“Radio is a local medium that informs, educates and engages with its listeners in real time. It is time to revisit, reinvent and reposition radio to keep it relevant in a rapidly evolving digital realm,” founder of TRF Archana Kapoor said.
In the discussion on the role of radio in respect to gender, leading RJs from various private FM channels as well as senior presenters from AIR highlighted how the space and treatment of gender has changed over the years. From omitting certain words on-air to sharing equal airtime, the panel discussed the inclusion of gender in the medium. “There is nothing called half the sky for either gender. The entire sky is there to be claimed by whoever wants to,” RJ Ginnie of Radio City succinctly summarized.
Representatives from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka shed light on the South-Asian radio scenario. With varying anecdotes of challenges and impact, the panel shed light on the role played by the medium in accentuating voices. As the moderator of the session Anders Held said, “Radio is important, stories are different.”
The audience was transported to the world where magic is woven through words in the session of poetry. From Faiz and Ghalib to lullabies sung by mothers to their children, the session decoded the relationship of words to melodies and the space occupied by poetry in a person’s life. “Poetry can change the world, it can stir revolutions, it is like filling the sea in a pot,” Rakhshanda Jalil surmised.
On request by the moderator RJ Sayema, pearls of poetry spread across different moods and themes were recited by Jalil, Qurban Ali and Atul Tiwari, followed by a song by Rahul Ram of Indian Ocean on pollution of Delhi.
The contemporary audio world has an important new format: podcasts. The festival provided a platform to leading podcasters to decode the nuances of this new industry or what formula works and what doesn’t.
“You do not know what might do really well (in the digital world) today. I recently discovered ‘Chicken Leg piece’ which is one of the most popular accounts on Tik Tok. This is a guy who eats Chicken leg piece (on camera) and says "Chicken Leg piece". It is one of the most popular people on Tik Tok. So what can you call 'niche’ now? ‘Niche’ does not exist,” Mae Mariyam Thomas, founder of Maed in India put it across.
Podcasts and certain broadcasters are also producing content on themes and topics generally considered taboo, or not spoken about, such as sex and sexuality, mental health and body positivity. As RJ Swati of Red FM said, “When I joined radio, I was told there are certain words you do not say on-air. Sex was one of them.”
The audience was taken on an aural journey of dance by Padma Shri dance maestros Bharti Shivaji and Shovana Narayan. While Shivaji elaborated on the delicate aspects of Mohiniattam, Narayan demonstrated how the footwork and sounds of ghunghroos are used to create personalities and plotlines in Kathak, leaving the audience spellbound.
Leaders of the radio industry discussed and charted the future of the medium. “I think you need to be relevant. If you are creating good content, people will hear you. Radio has survived 90 years. The fight is not against your competitors in the business, the fight is against technology, and the only way to battle that is by being relevant,” said Nisha Narayanan, COO and Director of Red FM.
“Content may be king but distribution is God. That is the cliché I prefer. There are different kinds of monetizing models that people are going with. For some reach is irrelevant, a small number is enough. But if we talk about FMs because of the amount you pay for that license, if you are not one of the top three or four, then you are a nobody and that’s a problem with broadcast as well,” said Abhinandan Sekhri, co-founder of Newslaundry and moderator of the panel.
Master storytellers discussed the art of storytelling through a public medium at TRF. Probed by Anusha Rizvi, director of Peepli Live, the leading RJs decoded the various aspects of storytelling. While RJ Peeyush from Radio Nasha quipped on the unique identity of every storyteller, RJ Saurabh of Red FM elaborated on the art of mixing sounds with stories to make them more impactful.
“Radio is an intimate medium. We need to tell more positive stories, and the stories which can create an impact on people’s lives,” Richa Anirudh voiced the words everyone was in agreement with.
The final panel of the day was a riot of laughter with the wittiest of the industry such as Khurafati Nitin and RJ Lucky from Fever FM. While discussing audience connect, RJ Nitin said, “When you address people as ‘aap’ on radio, you lose listeners. Your listener is an individual and must feel you are addressing him/her.” The line that stayed with all was- Host ek dost hota hai!
“Scripts do not work on radio because your audience will know if you are reading out something or being your own self," RJ Lucky said. The session was wrapped up in peals of laughter as RJ Lucky presented a short mimicry act.
The day ended with a rap performance by Kumud and Shanu, two young boys from Shamli, Uttar Pradesh, incorporating the real accounts of acid attack victims, paired with a hard-hitting lyrical commentary on this crime.