Moving commercial radio forward

  • Business
  • Saturday, 20 Jul 2013

THERE are new things in the pipeline for Commercial Radio Malaysia (CRM), which has just appointed its first new president in a decade. And something old may also be making a return, if things go as planned.

Recently Kudsia Kahar, deputy group chief broadcasting officer of The Star Radio Group, replaced Datuk Borhanuddin Osman as head of the association representing private radio broadcasters. Borhanuddin had been president for a whopping nine terms, a record for any media/advertising-related trade association in the country.

Kudsia sees several challenges to be addressed in the coming years, including talent development and recognition, and the threat of overregulation.

For talent development, she hopes to boost the frequency of its Planet Radio outreach programme (to universities) to twice a year.

CRM is also considering to bring back the AIM (Anugerah Industry Radio) Awards, which was merged with the Kancil Awards in 2006.

In addition, the association is in preliminary discussions to start a fund to assist radio veterans who have led the way for the industry today.

“This year we might just do Planet Radio twice,” Kudsia tells StarBizWeek. “We did the first one at Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, on March 2. We might do another within the Klang Valley towards the last quarter of the year.”

She says the association found that a lot of undergraduates do not realise the “immense career potential” offered by the radio broadcasting industry.

“They think that by joining radio, you can only become a producer, sales person, publicist, marketing manager or deejay. But there’s so much more, such as social media coordinator, software programmer, app developer and finance person. Every radio station worth its salt would need to have a research department as well, so someone who is good in statistics and research is also required. There’s a good 20 to 30 different positions that can exist in a radio station.”

Kudsia says the commercial radio industry in Malaysia is very robust considering the country’s population.

“Radio broadcasting is a very viable industry, and it is our responsibility as the stakeholder now to ensure that it continues to be so by making sure the right talents are hired,” she says.

The radio industry is finding it hard to get people who are bilingual, “especially those who are proficient in English, which is absolutely necessary no matter what language you are broadcasting in,” Kudsia says.

“A lot of information from the news agencies, for example, is in English. People who work in the newsroom need to be able to translate stories.

“This didn’t used to be a huge problem before. The more the usage of English is marginalised, the more it will impact radio stations.”

Apart from enticing people to join the industry, CRM also wants to recognise those who are already brilliant in the industry.

And hence it is thinking of re-introducing the AIR Awards.

“For us in radio, the Kancils (organised by the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia) only recognises radio commercials. We want to have a proper radio awards which recognise the really good talents.”

She says the awards shouldn’t be just for best radio ads and best radio copywriters.

“What about the best community service announcement on radio? What about recognising a brilliant piece of investigative reporting that came out on radio?”

She admits that funding the AIR Awards will be a challenge.

“We can’t be hitting the same clients and agencies that are already sponsoring the Kancil Awards.

“Unfortunately, in the last two or three years it was not something that could’ve been considered because the global financial crisis did hit a lot of our multinationals which also had to pull back their local spending as well,” she says.

CRM is considering creating a fund for those who have paved the way for commercial radio now.

“This is to provide assistance to those who have retired, for example, It’s still at a discussion stage; the proposal was mooted only in May.

“That will require some fundraising to be done as well, and at the moment we are not engaged in any fundraising activities for the association.

“If there is a fundraising activity, it is for the outreach programme, to be given back to the industry rather than the association per se.”

Kudsia also stresses CRM’s role to make sure that at policy level, it is engaged with the policymakers and regulators in order to ensure that the commercial viability of the country’s radio stations.

“I see overregulation as a possible threat because radio stations need to rise up to the fact that radio audiences, especially the younger ones, are way more open-minded than many people give them credit for; they’re already exposed to so much.

“We need to respect the fact that they’re exposed to what’s happening in the entertainment world outside Malaysia, especially because of the Internet,” she says.

“For us to suddenly try and curb the kind of knowledge and music that they can listen to on our radio stations is a bit hypocritical.

“Some of the CRM members disagree with the attempt to limit the amount of foreign music played on radio stations by a percentage.

“The trends are dictated by radio listeners, not by radio stations. Certain trends have a very short life.

“For example, at one point, everybody latched on to Indonesian pop rock.”

On marketers, she says they are getting more savvy now when it comes to when and how to use radio, and more and more radio broadcasters, especially in the commercial radio industry, are beginning to understand that just selling a 30-second spot to a client doesn’t work anymore.

“More and more broadcasters are coming up with tailor-made campaigns and solutions for clients. More often than not, you’ll find radio stations offering digital and on-air solutions as well.

“Now, when a radio station approaches a client or an agency, it’s no longer about the 30-second ad.

“It’s ‘Here’s your 30-second ad, and while those ads are going on, this is what will happen visually on the phone app and this is the banner or video on the radio website.’

“Engaging radio listeners now is not just through audio; it can be a very visual medium as well,” she says.

CRM also organises boot camps every year to foster a better understanding on how to use radio and radio solutions.

Last year CRM brought in Stefan Sagmeister (Grammy Award-winning design icon).

CRM started Radio Day on Sept 9, 2009, but now it plans to synchronise it with the World Radio Day.

“Last year there was a movement worldwide to have a World Radio Day (on Feb 13, proclaimed by Unesco).

“Now we are trying to make sure there’s only one, so we’ve put in our submission that Malaysia becomes one of the countries that adopt the World Radio Day,” she says.

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