We were in love with the microphone: World Radio Day Festival Delhi

The third Radio Festival was held in Delhi on World Radio Day 2020. Steve Ahern was there.


“Radio has emerged as the ultimate survivor,” said host Lina Misla from All India Radio, before handling over to one of All India Radio’s music groups to open the conference with music.

“Music on radio unites our cultures,” she said.


In a session titled Boomers versus Millennials, the relevance of radio for the older and newer generations was discussed.

“Radio is a cross generational medium which has stood the test of time,” the young and old presenters agreed, but there were many things they disagreed on.

The boomer generation ‘grandad’ said “we were in love with the microphone.”

The younger millennial said “we don’t like to divide by age group, we don’t need to do that… we want to be ourselves on air, mistakes don’t matter, the audience can identify with us.”

Millennials use social media but they often prefer radio. “Sometimes [social media] gets you too close to that annoying relative that you really don’t want to be contacting you, so sometimes we just want radio.”

Millennials are “bringing positive change to society through radio, issues like climate change… We have also made everyone fell ok in their own skin.”


UNESCO representative Eric Falt told delegates:

“With great power comes responsibility. Radio has great power, so also has a responsibility to contribute to society, through following the themes of this year’s World Radio Day:

Advocating for pluralism in radio, including a mix of public, private and community broadcasters;
Encouraging representation in the newsroom, with teams comprised of diverse society groups;
Promoting a diversity of editorial content and programme types reflecting the variety of the audiences.

“Radio has given more space to women to participate in radio and tell their own stories, not just have their stories told by someone else.

“Radio has evolved to embrace the new technologies which can allow people to interact and shape the programs via smart phones and social media.”

Felt launched a Sustainability Goals Toolkit for community radio stations after his presentation.

The Assistant Secretary of India’s Department of Information and Broadcasting talked about the very strong oral tradition in India, which is why radio is so strong in this country. He recognised the contribution of community radio, saying: “The processes for expanding commercial radio licences and implementing Community Radio licences are in progress in India.”

The CEO of national broadcaster Prasa Bharti said: “One man who has brought radio back into the mainstream of public discourse is our Prime Minister who has put his energy into a radio broadcast every month.

“AIR is one of the best examples of diversity on radio with several hundred languages and the most complex radio network in the world, ensuring every region finds its voice… We are now aspiring to have digital radio services in India, which we expect to be on air within a few years. We are testing with daily transmissions on every channel.”

Radio has been “a long term love” for RJ Sarthak, who moderated a session on gender and equality. Some of the comments from the women and men in the session included:

Radio City: “I go on radio to argue with people.”

Fever 100.4: “Today is Radio Day, tomorrow is Valentines Day, so this week is about the two loves of my life”

RJ Sarthak hosts a radio version of Battle of the Sexes. “I have had to catch myself from cracking gender jokes because as a responsible broadcaster what I may say as a joke can be interpreted wrongly and can contribute to misoginy. The low hanging fruit was fart jokes and making fun of gender, by making those jokes we condoned gender inequality.”

“In broadcasting there is no space for gender bias, it should be just about being a good broadcaster who connects with the listeners… Men and women look up to great radio stars, whether they are men or women,” said another female panel member.

In an international panel session, Radiodays Europe founder Anders Held spoke to broadcasters from the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh for perspectives on radio broadcasting in their countries:

Maldives: “I chose radio because it touches the heart.”

Sri Lanka: “We are a small island with 60 radio stations, how can they all survive?”

Bangladesh: “Is it easy to get volunteers for community radio? Yes, it is in the cities where there are volunteers from university students, but not in other areas.”

Nepal: “We get volunteers from the many groups (mothers groups, etc) because they have information to share and they are already organised into groups who can sustain a program. There are more than 300 community stations in Nepal.”

Bhutan: “Our opportunities and challenges are similar to many Asian countries. For a population of 700,000 people we have one public service radio station, three commercial stations and six community stations, this is big for our population. The government recognises the significance of radio, it has the biggest reach in Bhutan. There is not much revenue for commercial or community radio… In the past ten years there has been a reduction in number of radios sets in the population, down from 77,000 to 45,000.”

The Sri Lankan broadcaster told a story about the power of radio:

“There was a mistaken curfew announcement. The words for warning and curfew are similar in our language. It cleared the streets, everyone went home, for a mistake of one word broadcast on radio.”

“Podcasting is the natural evolution of radio,” was the opening statement for a session on podcasting, which included startups and independent podcasters.

Nishant: “Our start-up company believes in the power of audio. Podcasting is a natural progression of what is already being done.”

Independent creator: “My podcast talks to people who follow their passion.”

Podcast company aawaz.com: “We have about 600 hours of spoken content in English and Hindi… Our content has something for every mood and time of day.”

Savaan: “We are a music streaming company but we have now moved to give people a taste of podcasting through our platform.”

Mae, who formed her own independent podcast production company: “I used to be on the radio, but now I make podcasts. I was a radio journalist in the UK, presenter and producer then I moved into podcasting 5 years ago with my own podcast. Now my company produces and distributes podcasts for others.”

What is the audience in India for podcasts? “So many people are not aware of podcasts, but for those who are aware there is a lot of chatter about the growth potential of this medium. It is embryonic at this point.

“India is an audio consuming country, we are a country of storytelling, that’s where the potential of podcasting is in this country and across the Indian diaspora.”

How will podcasters monetise their industry?

“The brands we have worked with have always limited themselves to the old marketing methods, but audio works differently, it is not a saturated market like other areas. The podcast space offers engagement and loyalty to the host or the topic. The person listing is fully engrossed in your content and loyal. Advertising in this context is a reference from a friend not just an advertisement.”

In a session looking forward to developments in radio to 2030, Radio CEOs criticised the government's policy of not allowing news on commercial or community radio. Red FM CEO Nisha Narayanan said policy should catch up with new technology. The monopoly of All India Radio on news and sport broadcasts “is not a level playing field” she said.

Looking towards the coming changes to programming and technology, international expert Steve Ahern said:

“There is a tidal wave of new technology coming. The combination of voice control, smart speakers, search, podcasts and interaction will create new opportunities for those of us who work in the audio industry, but we need to understand and embrace the new technology.

“Your phone can give you time, traffic and weather on demand, these are core elements of breakfast radio programming. How are you going to differentiate your show from what listeners can get on their phones? The difference will be in then personality of the presenters and the connection to the rhythms of the city on that day. It's not about segments on a program, it's about connecting with your audience.”

He also spoke about podcasting and flash briefings. “This is the new age of audio, we need to distribute our audio on all the available platforms. Traditional linear broadcast radio, catch up radio and discretionary consumption audio via podcasts all need to be in your distribution chain. We have just launched a daily industry news flash briefing and our readers are enjoying the audio version of our websites radioinfo and AsiaRadioToday.

About 600 people attended the third Radio Festival in Delhi this year on World Radio Day.

See social media coverage of the event here.



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