The growth of private FM channels has opened up immense opportunities in the radio industry.
There was a time when radio was the only source of entertainment. Despite the advent of TV and Internet, the medium has not lost much of its popularity today. This however, reveals a deeper trend; the demand for people in the radio industry is higher than ever before. So let's see how to get in to the field and what to expect?
As a career
Siraj Syed, a renowned voice in Indian radio, worked with All India Radio for nearly three decades besides doing programmes with BBC World Service and a number of private FM channels.
According to him, “Radio as a career can be very rewarding and satisfying. Like all media, it is subject to regulatory regime, technological developments and audiences' media preferences, and those are the ‘market risks'. Some popular radio jockeys get paid with what many CEOs would be happy with. Obviously, announcing or RJing is not the only option available in the field of radio, but, like acting and VJing, it is the most glamorous.”
The viability of such a career in India has always been doubted, and has been one of the main reasons this field has been left unexplored. Media courses, today however are in high demand, and the reason may be attributed to fast track privatisation.
Radio courses are a part of the curriculum at most media colleges; some provide an overview while others go in depth . Shubha Singh, a freelance media professional, says “Generally, there are two types of courses: one that deals with creative programming (RJ/Script-writing and ideation). The other focuses on the production (recording, editing and mixing). The courses are designed to land the student with a job and can be chosen depending on the candidate's interest.”
A good jockey
“If you want to become like that dude you freak-out on, or the babe who turns you on, copy him or her! But if you think that there is life beyond verbal diarrhoea, put-on callousness passing off as super coolness and taking pains to win an award for maximum flippancy then keep yourself well-informed and updated, learn at least two languages well, with correct pronunciation, work on your voice and diction, have respect for your audience and avoid condescending tones, develop a sense of humour and sound like yourself”, says Siraj Syed
This line has immense scope, once you decide to look beyond the phenomenon of the FM. Community radio stations, run by a college or NGOs in remote villages, cover a smaller area but help spread information. “Most courses today only mould the student towards private channels. If some attention is given to community radio, students can become agents of change too,” says Shubha. “The industry can offer a profile beyond RJing. An experience of working with the public sector can give you exposure to outdoor broadcasting, writing and to profiles of a creative executive or a manager.”
Public radio allows you to freelance or work part-time while private channels demand more time.
In a public channel, hierarchy is followed, allowing you to move up the ladder with greater experience. “You start off as a radio-jockey, move on to becoming a producer, then programming head, station programming head, regional programming head and finally national programming head”, says Shubha.
Depending on the popularity of the RJ, private channels pay any where between Rs. 1000 and Rs. 5000 per day.
How do you decide?
Before you apply for a radio course, do a little research.
For starters, listen to the radio intensively. Do not restrict yourself to the private stations.
Second, to explore the scope of voice actors in radio dramas, search for different productions. One popular example is ‘Life Gulmohar style' aired on FM Rainbow.
BBC world service offers a number of documentaries for downloading. These reveal the myriad options a radio professional has. Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/docarchive
Ask Niladri Bose
What it takes to be recognised by the city through your voice?
There are no set requirements, but what's most important on radio is a signature style coupled with flair that will eventually lead to recognition.
Is it just about a great voice and sound music knowledge?
Voice is a bonus, great diction, fabulous on-air personality and knowledge of not just music but also local and global happenings.
What would a day in the station involve?
If it's a radio station that's serious about its existence then there would be a lot of work; from live shows, guest interactions, commercial production, auditions, road shows, sales promotions, marketing ventures and the like. A day in a radio unit is never the same.
Script-writing, programme and production, choosing the music, handling callers, managing the console... how do you handle so many activities at once?
It's all about team work. Today with digital consoles life is much simpler, but there is always help in the form of producers and music managers.
How do you understand the pulse of your audience and then cater to their needs?
It's your city, who understands it better than yourself? If you have a calling for the job, you will automatically be tuned to anticipate the pulse of the city and the needs of the listener.
An important day in your life.
It has been nearly 14 years that I have been associated with the medium, incidents are plenty but most cherished was having an interview with A.R. Rahman for the first time on air in Chennai, probably in the country as well.
Radio-jockeying/announcing in private or public stations.
Reporting on events and exhibition
Advertising for radio
Mixing/editing and effects
Voice actor for radio dramas
Radio documentary maker
Apart from full-time courses, some attractive short-term ones are also available.
Diploma Courses: EMDI (Encompass Institute of Radio Management), Mumbai
Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune
Short-term courses: British Council
National School of Drama, New Delhi