Sunday, October 30, 2011

What it means to be a radio professional

Commits alumna SHILPA DASGUPTA (Class of 2011), a producer with BIG FM in Kolkata, gives radio aspirants a peek into her world:

Radio has been defined as “one of the most difficult mediums of communication discovered till date, but also the easiest”. Difficult because radio lacks visual support and one has to depend completely on audio to build a picture in the minds of listeners.

For the same reason, though, it is considered the easiest medium. Because radio does not have any visual support, one can explain a lot through words, music, and sound effects.

Since many youngsters are interested in radio-jockeying, here’s a perspective on radio from someone who is an RJ.

First, RJ-ing does not mean only doing shows on air. If you want to be a good RJ, you need to understand all the functions of radio, because it is this knowledge that will help you, the RJ, to communicate fluently and efficiently with your TG, or target group. How? Well, you will get the hang of it as you go through this piece.


A private radio station mainly comprises three main departments:
  • Programming
  • Sales
  • Marketing
Programming: The most important part of radio, because all content development from promo planning to on-air sound designing and ideation, etc. is done by this department

Sales: All the commercials you hear on the radio are brought in by the sales team, which is responsible for bringing in the revenue. If there was no sales team, all of us would have to work for free!

Marketing: This department works for the promotion and visibility of the station. The marketing people plan different promotional activities such as organising listener involvement games in housing societies; giving out branded merchandise (umbrellas, T-shirts, etc.) to listeners; promotional activities in shopping malls; putting up hoardings in prominent parts of the city; tie-ups with news channels and newspapers to cover important station spikes. (Spikes stand for important events, such as award ceremonies and the like. For example, every year BIG FM, Kolkata, organises the Big Bangla Music Awards, Television Awards, etc.) It is the marketing team that is responsible for creating top-of-the-mind recall for a radio station in any given city.


A good RJ needs to understand and take interest in all these aspects in order to frame the show well.

In addition, there are certain creative and practical aspects which RJs must keep in mind while framing their shows:

MOOD STATE Different radio shows are conducted during different time bands, i.e., early morning, morning, mid-morning, afternoon, evening, night, and late night. And, accordingly, different time bands mean different mood states of listeners. In the mornings, for example, people are mostly in a hurry to get to work; they are usually pressed for time. So if a radio station plays games like antakshari in the morning time band, it’ll never work.

During afternoons, the highest radio listenership is from homemakers because this is the time when they relax. So their mood state is laid-back. At this time, this mood state demands light discussions on topics such as home utility tips, film gossip, etc. (the format can be compared to that of a women’s magazine), and in terms of music it should be light-romantic. Retro works magically in this time band.

NEED STATE With changing time bands, the needs of a listener also change. In the mornings, as we have seen, people are in a rush to get to work. And, as you must have noticed, during this time, most people listen to the radio in their cars or while travelling to their offices. So they will want traffic alerts, stock updates, news headlines, etc.

Again, the night band will have to cater to a sea change in the need state of listeners. Nights are considered a time for oneself, a time when people want to get nostalgic, think deep, so during this time, most night shows talk about personal problems or relationship-based issues. Late night shows are mostly framed in such a way that the RJ is like that invisible friend to whom one can open up completely.

TARGET GROUP This is the biggest deciding factor for any show. All show content and, also, the presentation of a show, including the “lingo” used by the RJ, listener gratification devices, contest types, and overall content depend on the show’s TG. If the TG for a particular time band is SEC B, C, and D, then, of course, the content of the show needs to be gossip-oriented and entertainment-based; even the contests and games should be very light and entertaining.

But keep in mind that a station’s positioning also matters a lot when it comes to determining its TG. Radio Mirchi, for example, always classifies itself as an entertainment station. Even their tag line “It’s Hot” very clearly identifies the station as one that gives you “spicy stuff”. Here in Kolkata, there is a station called Friends’ FM. It is owned by the Ananda Bazar Patrika group, which also publishes the No. 1 Bengali newspaper. Their positioning as a station evidently signifies that they are meant only for a niche TG, deeply inclined towards literature. So the station content, RJ talk, the lingo used everything highlights this fact.

MUSIC Music is the “king” of radio. No one is really interested in listening to “jock talk”. People tune in to a particular station primarily for the kind of music it plays. Each station has a particular music policy. We at BIG FM, Kolkata, believe in the melody factor and hence play only melodious songs. On the contrary, Mirchi plays a mixed stack and have a lot of up-tempo numbers in their playlist through the day.

So these are some of the most important factors RJs should think about when framing their shows. Without taking these factors into consideration, a show can never be successful.

Please remember, though, that the RJ is not the only person involved with the show. Each show has got a producer who helps the RJ with scripting, research, promo planning, getting celebrity bites, and in many other ways. So it’s a combination of producer and RJ that makes a show successful.

Having given you all this gyan, let me also tell you that it’s super fun to work in radio if you’re prepared to work 12-14 hours a day, even on weekends. But, ultimately, on Fridays, when the RAM (Radio Audience Measurement) report gives you the news that your show has become No.1, trust me, nothing else matters at that time.

Best of luck… loads of best wishes to all of you. I am really looking forward to seeing some of you working in my audio world.

PS: Those who want to learn more about radio can read the books written by Dan O’Day. He is considered the father of radio and has written books on almost all aspects of radio. Download these two e-books from his site:

A regular radio day in my life

I reach the station between 10 and 10:30 a.m. though, officially, my work day begins only at 2 p.m. Since BIG is Asia’s largest radio network with 45 stations across the country, we are accountable for all programming to our parent station, i.e. Mumbai. So the first task after getting to work is to prepare a show plan and send it to Mumbai. (Once in a month, our programming team also sits together to prepare the upcoming month’s show plan.)

If we have some special spike coming up, for example, we had the BIG Women’s Achievement Awards at the end of October, we need to plan how we can drive this special content on-air and on-ground. So the day begins with planning and brain-storming. This takes us a lot of time.

The next job on my list is to start preparing for my evening show. Being a drive-time show, this show needs a lot of elements to be incorporated. And being the producer of the show, I need to take care of all these aspects. So I create a regular CLB of the show (CLB stands for Content, Link, and Break). The CLB sheet, which is given to the RJ before the show, contains the details of each RJ link; it also shows how the content flow will be driven throughout the show.

I also use this time to take celebrity bites or fix up appointments with celebrities for interviews or invite them to our studio. Sometimes a lot of show elements are sent to us by the Mumbai station and I edit these elements according to the show.

After I am done with my evening show, preparations start for the night show, in the same way. The only difference is that it’s a late night show so not many elements need to be incorporated. The late night show is all about listener interaction, so we do it live. And I have to be in the studio till midnight to co-ordinate and to filter callers, which is very important.

In addition, I have to prepare the winners’ lists for both my shows and send them across for prize distribution; co-ordinate with the marketing team for OOH (out of home) promotion of my shows; co-ordinate with other stations for some important elements for the show; and, on special days, even do live on-ground shows.

Wednesdays can be difficult because that’s when the weekly meetings with the Mumbai station are scheduled. Which means I have to get to the station even earlier in order to wrap up all my work, besides attending the meeting.

So, all in all, my day starts around 10:30 in the morning and ends around 12:30-1:00 the next morning. Fun, isn’t it? I certainly think so.
  • EXTERNAL READING: If you’ve ever dreamt about being a radio star, then why not make it happen? Learn how here: Start your own radio station.


  1. Thanks a lot for sharing the entire processing of a radio station. I have always been very keen to know how it all happens systematically. I love listening to FM, so i wanted to know the real picture, of what the making of it is like.

    I was waiting to attend ma'am class for this, now i know a part of it because of your article! :)

  2. Radio is such a fascinating medium to work with! It stretches the limits of your creativity as you have to work with audio only. And trust me that's an exciting challenge!

    Someone who wants to be an RJ, needs to be 90% show producer + 10% jock. Which means apart from essentials like planning your show, groundwork for the content, flow etc., it is important to be yourself on air.

    Yes, music is the king but an RJ makes the difference to the listening experience of the audience. The persona of the RJ and packaging the content enhances the flavour of the show. Every RJ has a unique persona, a sobriquet, and positioning that differentiates from the competitor.

    Private FM radio stations in India are based on the Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) format. That means we play the most popular and recurrent songs from movies of recent years. Over the years, to offer a bouquet to the listeners, Retro shows in different time bands were introduced.

    To clarify, Radio Mirchi does not identify with giving "spicy stuff". The station is known for great music, fun and entertainment. The tagline "It's Hot" comes from its positioning - India's hottest radio station. That means the hottest music, hottest celebs, hot topics and all that's contemporary.

    All in all, nothing compares to the feeling when you see people listening to your creation in their homes, cars, malls, buses/autos!


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