India’s political parties pump up the radio volume

November 29, 2013

Anyone who keeps a radio turned on in India’s National Capital Region knows that election fever has settled on Delhi ahead of the Dec. 4 state polls. The ruling Congress party, main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and newcomer Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are betting big on radio campaigning — a medium that reaches millions of people across economic classes and backgrounds.

Overall, about 250 million to 500 million rupees ($4 million to $8 million) have been spent on radio advertising in this year’s assembly election in Delhi – at least 200 percent more than during the 2008 state elections, Sunil Kumar of radio consulting firm Big River Radio estimated.

The AAP, or “common man party,” led by Arvind Kejriwal, has allocated 20 million to 30 million rupees ($320,000 to $480,000) for advertising, with 60 to 70 percent for radio and phone calls, said Dilip K. Pandey, an AAP secretary responsible for their communication strategy.

“The best thing about FM campaign is that it reaches out to everyone … there is an imbalance in society — there are rich people, there are poor people — but it reaches out to everybody,” Pandey said.

Eight private radio channels and seven central government-owned channels cater to a population of over 16 million residents in New Delhi, according to government data.

Average rates for on-air time can vary from 400 rupees ($6.40) per 10 seconds to 2,000 rupees ($32) depending on the radio station’s reach and the time of broadcast, Pandey said. Prices also depend on how long the ad is.

While Kejriwal’s voice is used in the AAP’s radio messages, the BJP is using its Delhi contender Harsh Vardhan and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Congress Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is featured in her party’s radio campaign.

With over 5 million women eligible to vote in Delhi, the BJP is also using radio to raise awareness about issues such as women’s safety, apart from education and corruption.

“It is a very important medium … it has a vast appeal. Moreover, in the day time, say between 10am-2pm, there is a lot of appeal among the women, housewives,” said Ashish Sood, a BJP vice president who also handles their communications strategy.

The Delhi chief minister’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Three private radio stations in New Delhi — Radio Mirchi, Radio One and Radio City – cited emergence of a new political party in AAP, higher advertising costs on print and television and better audience targeting as key reasons radio is gaining traction among political advertisers.

Anshul Munjal, vice president for sales at Radio City, expects a 15 percent boost in revenue for the sector because of the elections. “On TV, creating an ad is very expensive. In that money you can run a 15-20 days campaign on radio,” he said.

Such campaigns by political parties are proving to be a boon for broadcasters, helping them fight the “lull in the market” after the Diwali festival season and its accompanying advertising boom, Munjal said.

(Editing by Aditya Kalra and Robert MacMillan; Follow Shashank on Twitter @shashankchouhan, Aditya @adityayk and Robert @bobbymacReports | Disclaimer: This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced in any form without permission)

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