Abrar Zargar
Cluster Programming Head,
93.5 RED FM

Radio and the COVID crisis

As more Indians opt to stay home amid growing concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), media consumption is, unsurprisingly, peaking. Yet, amidst the various media options consumers have to choose from, radio is one of the preferred medium for credible information; various active listeners say they are listening to as much, or more, radio as they were doing before the pandemic.

Radio stations are playing an important role during COVID-19 crisis, not only for accurate information but also as a companion for listeners of all ages. Radio and on-air personalities present a connection to the real world that listeners gravitate toward and trust. Radio is held in high regard and trust to deliver timely information about the current COVID-19 news. In a time of heightened uncertainty and disrupted routines, consumers are turning to radio as a trusted source of information.

While people have stayed home, radio is serving as the preferred medium for infotainment. On-air interviews, chats with doctors, COVID heroes, citizens, and city authorities not only help listeners stay updated, it also helps them to break the chain of fake news as well.

Radio advertising during COVID-19

The current situation amplifies our reliance on media, and radio stations and advertisers have an opportunity to create lasting relationships with an extremely captive audience, an audience that almost universally is moderately or extremely concerned about COVID-19. Importantly, the government has endorsed the fact that radio has helped them deal with the outbreak.

And, while radio stations and their on-air personalities can provide listeners with information that is accurate and relevant to their markets, advertisers have the opportunity to help cope with an unprecedented time in history – one where our out-of-home activities are extremely limited. They can also help listeners get what they need as they adjust and manage; radio helps them know what stores are open and where to shop locally. So, in this time of self-quarantining and isolation, what are consumers planning to do when they step outside?

With marketers and advertisers taking stock of COVID’s impact on the economy, insight into consumer sentiment is more critical than ever.

Radio is a local lifeblood for millions of consumers, and specializes in keeping audiences up-to-date. In this environment, it is no surprise that people use radio as a major source of information and connection. Whether it is for local information, a place to listen to what is happening, to connect with community members, or simply as a way to find out which essential retailers are open for business, radio is continuing to fill those needs for consumers everywhere.

Impact of COVID on Indian radio industry

The private FM radio sector was mostly left out of the center’s Rs 20 lakh crore economic package. The Association of Radio Operators for India, an industry body of private FM channels appealed to help the sector survive.

The association has pointed out that the radio industry is going through a tough phase, with advertising revenue shrinking over the past year with a de-growth of 20 percent. According to an Elara Capital research, the radio industry has reported a revenue decline of 80–85 percent year-on-year to date, due to the pan-India lockdown.

Many of the leading advertising categories on radio have been hit hard due to coronavirus including auto, and real estate. Plus, the government ad spend, which is another important category for radio, has dropped as much as 80 percent, say industry players.

It is extremely important for the government to support the radio industry, which plays a key role in providing information to listeners, and is the most trusted medium for information.

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