Claims more than 100 million listeners in 170 countries

In an effort to expand its footprint in India, Russia's veteran radio station Voice of Russia is planning to launch FM broadcasts in Chennai, the company's head said.

“We have plans to increase our presence in India and are currently looking for a partner in Chennai to broadcast in the FM band,” Voice of Russia president Andrei Bystritsky told The Hindu.

Voice of Russia began broadcasting in the FM space in India earlier this year, partnering with Fever 104 FM.

One or two-hour programmes about Russia in Hindi, interlaced with Russian and Indian songs, are at present broadcast in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

In the South, Voice of Russia is already present in Bangalore on 104 FM.

The radio network also broadcasts to South Asia in Hindi and Urdu on short and medium waves from its Moscow studios, and in Bengali on the internet.

This is a far cry from Soviet times when Voice of Russia used to run programmes in most Indian languages on a daily basis. Nevertheless, after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, and Russia drastically scaled back its massive media presence in India, Voice of Russia remained a major source of news for Indian audiences, Mr. Bystritsky said.

On December 8-9, the House of Russian Science and Culture in New Delhi will host the fifth conference of Voice of Russia Indian fan clubs.

“Annual meetings with our listeners from all over India are an important feedback channel that helps us cater better to the needs and tastes of our Indian audiences,” Mr. Bystritsky said.

The State-run Voice of Russia, which prides itself on being the first world broadcaster to launch international services 81 years ago, several years ahead of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), is now actively switching to high-end digital media technologies.

“Our programmes today are available via satellite channels, the Internet, and even on cell phones through advanced Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) technology,” Mr. Bystritsky said.

In a survey by the Switzerland-based International Media Help among radio listeners in 50 countries, Voice of Russia came third after BBC and Voice of America in popularity ratings. The station claims to have more than 100 million listeners in 170 countries.

The Voice of Russia expansion programme is part of a global media offensive, which Moscow has recently mounted to contest the Western monopoly on news reporting. Five years ago, the Russian government launched Russia Today television channel targeting foreign audiences, which now broadcasts 24 hours in English, Arabic and Spanish in 100 countries.