x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fierce radio rivals aim for teamwork

Radio broadcasters in the UAE have teamed up to launch an industry association amid concerns the medium is "underrated" by advertisers.

Just US$52 million (Dh191m) was spent on radio advertising in the UAE last year, roughly 3.5 per cent of the total spending. Mike Young / The National
Just US$52 million (Dh191m) was spent on radio advertising in the UAE last year, roughly 3.5 per cent of the total spending. Mike Young / The National

Radio broadcasters in the UAE have teamed up to launch an industry association amid concerns that the medium is "underrated" by advertisers.

Executives say radio accounts for just 3 to 4 per cent of total advertising spending in the UAE - far lower than in more mature markets.

An industry association would help to build the profile of radio among advertisers, executives said.

Vikram Dhar, the head of Gulf News Broadcasting - which operates five stations - says radio does not get the attention it deserves from advertisers.

"It's the most underrated media in the UAE," said Mr Dhar. "Our reach is so much bigger, and our spread is so much bigger than the credit we are given in research, and the share of advertising budgets we get."

Mr Dhar said a number of rival stations had met to discuss an industry association to tackle this issue and others.

"We're trying to get all the radio stations together to form an association. [It would] organise the industry, to improve the profile of radio amongst the advertising fraternity, and improve standards of creative radio advertising in the market," he said. "The final objective must be to improve the quality of delivery to our listeners - be it in terms of content, news or just quality of sound."

Mr Dhar said the association was "likely to happen before the end of 2012".

Just US$52 million (Dh191m) was spent on radio advertising in the UAE last year, about 3.5 per cent of total advertising spending, according to the Pan Arab Research Center. Those figures do not take into account discounted or free advertising.

Mr Dhar said radio attracted a greater proportion of advertising spending in other, more mature markets - an indication of its growth potential in the UAE.

"In Europe and America, it's between 7 and 10 per cent. So in the more mature markets, it's very much larger," he said.

Steve Smith, the chief operating officer of the Arabian Radio Network (ARN), which is part of the Arab Media Group, said broadcasters from across the UAE had been part of the discussion over an industry association.

ARN operates eight stations, including Virgin Radio 104.4, Dubai Eye and Dubai 92.

"It's at initial discussions. But there is a real sense of want for this coming from the major players in the industry," said Mr Smith. "Even though we're fierce competitors, we need to be on the same page with certain things."

Mr Smith said the association would be open to all broadcasters in the UAE. "This is showing that radio is really progressing," he said.

bflanagan@thenational.ae