Representational image. Image Credit: Pixabay

Abu Dhabi: One more Malayalam radio station catering to expatriates from the South Indian State of Kerala has shut down its operations in the UAE. Asianet Radio 657 AM became the fourth Malayalam radio station to close down in the past three years, executives of the radio industry told Gulf News.

An estimated one million Keralites constitute the largest expatriate community in the UAE.

The 18-year-old Asianet Radio stopped broadcasting on February 9 without making any announcements on its closure. A senior executive of the station did not respond to a request for comment.

As Gulf News reported on January 31, two Malayalam radio stations were closed down during the past one year. Dubai-based Radio Mango 96.2 FM, launched in August 2014, stopped broadcasting regular programmes in mid-January 2019. Voice of Kerala 1152 AM based in Ras Al Khaimah was closed down in early 2018. In 2016, Umm Al Quwain-based RadioMe 100.3 FM had been shut down.

Malayalam radio professionals in the UAE said drop in advertisement revenue has posed a challenge to the sector.

K.K. Moideen Koya, the founding programme director of Asianet Radio, said its closure is a huge loss to the Keralite community in the UAE. “Since the station was launched in early 2000, it made a huge impact on the community,” said Koya who was the director until 2002.

K.K. Moideen Koya, the founding programme director of Asianet Radio

“When Asianet Radio was launched, only two Malayalam stations were there. Later when the number of stations jumped to ten [until three years ago] and no new advertisers emerged, the existing advertisement revenue had to be shared by all, leaving a small share to each one,” said Koya who is currently media relations director at UAE Exchange.

A high licence fee has also affected the financial viability of radio stations, he said. “The fee [to use frequency] has been increasing every year,” Koya said.

Echoing the same opinion, head of a prominent Malayalam radio, said: “As an AM [amplitude modulation that has higher reach than FM - frequency modulation] station, we are paying up to Dh4million licence fee per annum, which is not affordable in the current market conditions,” said K. Chandrasenan, managing director of Abu Dhabi-based Pravasi Bharathi 810 AM.

K. Chandrasenan, managing director of Abu Dhabi-based Pravasi Bharathi 810 AM

Given the community services offered by the radio stations, such as raising awareness about rules and regulations, government’s local and international initiatives etc, the relevant authorities may consider this aspect, he said.

“Even if the advertisement revenue increases in future, high licence fee will still pose a challenge to the radio industry,” Chandrasenan said.

On air: Existing six Malayalam Radio Stations in UAE

- Radio Asia 1269 AM (moving to new frequency of 1476 AM soon)
- Pravasi Bharathi 810 AM
- Hit 96.7 FM
- Club FM 99.6
- Gold 101.3 FM
- Flowers FM 94.7

Four closed stations in past two years

- RadioMe 100.3 FM
- Voice of Kerala 1152 AM
- Radio Mango 96.2 FM
- Asianet Radio 657 AM