Hey Mr.RJ… who owns your Facebook page?


MY FM’s RJ Meenakshi has crossed the 100,000 fans milestone on Facebook. Or so announces an eager story in Radio And Music. I’d however refrain from commenting on the quality of content and interactions on her Facebook page – take a look at it yourself and form your own opinion – after all, what is ‘successful’ is simply what works.

There are many RJs and VJs in India who have a robust fan following on Twitter and Facebook.

They were perhaps not known to people (listeners/audiences) before they come an RJ or a VJ. But when they did, they, perhaps on their own or with help from the brand they worked with (radio station or TV channel) ventured into a Facebook page or a Twitter page, in their own name, and started extending the reach of their program that would have otherwise remained only on radio or TV.

This is very different from film stars’ use of social media platforms since they do not act just in one film. Or even people who are employed in a company and tweet about the company in their personal Twitter/Facebook pages, because, in both cases, they have to market their Twitter/Facebook pages on their own and cannot use the film/company communication to do so.

So, typical scenario – RJ or VJ augments the programming on radio or TV with engagement via Facebook or Twitter and both platforms rub on each other. This is no doubt a very useful strategy to expand the listener base and engage with them deeper.

The trouble is – when they quit, who owns the fan base built on either platform?

On radio or TV, it’s simple – they’d replace that RJ or VJ with another one and the new person would need to build an audience from scratch or continue on the lines of the earlier RJ/VJ.

On Facebook and Twitter? The page is usually called ‘RJ something’ and is not a personal profile – this is a Facebook Page! Or a Twitter handle.

Can the radio station or TV channel claim, ‘You used radio (or TV) to build an audience on Facebook, so it belongs to us when you quit’?

Can the RJ/VJ claim, ‘I built this fan base with my name on it, with my effort and I helped this extra effort to expand the reach of your program, so it belongs to me’?

Do radio stations and/or TV channels have guidelines on how to go about creating social media properties for RJs and VJs in the first place? Guidelines on what happens when they quit?

One possible way out could be that the RJ/VJ in question create a page on their own accord with just a generic title – RJ <name>, as against MY FM RJ <name>.

Even then, I’m sure they would talking about the station/channel’s programming so I guess the brand is right in claiming ownership too. It may necessary for RJs/VJs and station/channel brand leads to discuss it before they start on this task.

As Vivek Shenoy puts it, this case may remind you of the famous PhoneDog case where the employer (PhoneDog, a mobile news website) sued an ex-employee (Noah Kravitz) of taking over the Twitter profile, and along with it 17,000 followers of that Twitter profile, which the company claimed were customers (readers, in this case)! This question of ownership may apply to any business where an employee has a public facing communication channel on a social media platform and the company has a non-internet or internet-based communication channel apart from person handles for employees. Reason? Those channels could help build personal profiles and vice versa. For example, most RJs announce their Facebook/Twitter handles on the radio show and ask fans to connect with them there!

What’s your take?



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12 Responses

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  1. Sreeharsha
    Sreeharsha at | | Reply

    Good point. Isn’t this similar to Copyright law which says that the employer is the rightful owner of the work done by his / her / its employee during his / her tenure, even after he / she quits?

    1. Karthik Srinivasan
      Karthik Srinivasan at | | Reply

      I think this is a lot more complicated.

      Let me throw just one scenario – RJ is previously an RJ too, but doesn’t have a FB page. Starts a page that says and not . He does not promote his page on the radio show, but promotes the radio show on this FB page. Who owns the page when he quits?

      If the channel claims it, he can always say that he did not use the channel to build his fan base. The station could counter it with, ‘but people joined you because you ARE the RJ at station-name’.

      He could counter, again, with, ‘But 90% of my content was my observations and thougths. Only 10% was plugging for show, which incidentally helped you gain more listeners and you were able to sell more advertising! So, if anything, you need to compensate me for promoting your show on my personal channel’ and so on! 🙂

      1. Blogeswari
        Blogeswari at | | Reply

        The page belongs to the station because the people joined the page not for Meenakshi but for RJ Meenakshi of My FM. If she were to counter with saying that the content on the page was not about the station but her thoughts and observations, the company will counter and say “In that case go ahead and do that in a ‘Meenakshi’ page” and not “RJ meenakshi (of MY FM) page”.

        1. Karthik Srinivasan
          Karthik Srinivasan at | | Reply

          What if she was an RJ previously too (but without a FB page)… as in that RJ doesn’t necessarily mean MY FM RJ (which she did not mention, for instance) and means something like say, ‘Dr.’, that is denoting a profession?

          1. blogeswari
            blogeswari at |

            But this page whether mentioned or not (on the page) is RJ Meenakshi of My FM’s page. For eg RJs when invited for events / college culturals etc represent their FM station. It’s understood.
            Fb is another medium of connecting with their (FM station’s ) audience.

          2. Karthik Srinivasan
            Karthik Srinivasan at |

            I get that – I was talking from the point of view of any other RJ, not just Meenakshi. Chose her because she has 1 lakh followers, but in her case the radio station name is prominent.

            For the smarter RJs, or any employee in a media organization, this could be something they need to think about before starting.

  2. Deepak Shenoy
    Deepak Shenoy at | | Reply

    Tech companies have rules where they claim ownership to anything the employee builds even if he builds it in his spare time, on his own computers. Some even claim ownership of “ideas” but that one’s iffy.

    Read this: http://answers.onstartups.com/questions/19422/if-im-working-at-a-company-do-they-have-intellectual-property-rights-to-the-st

    1. Karthik Srinivasan
      Karthik Srinivasan at | | Reply

      That was a great thread to read.

      Just one point, however – my perspective was more specific to companies/brands that have their own media vehicles (Radio station, TV channel, Print newspaper etc.) because then there is cross-promption to and fro.

      Consider the PhoneDog example – it IS a mobile news portal. It’s main business is to communite to its readers/audiences. This is a vastly different scenario from Zynga, which is in the business of making games that people play – it is not in the news/communication business, so there are less chances of to and fro co-promotion which could be one way to make the brand’s claim stick when the person leaves.

      But yes, I agree that my question is just one part of a larger level question around these topics, because every brand is assumed to be media with social media’s advent.

  3. Alex C.
    Alex C. at | | Reply

    The answer is simple and direct: The station owns the page. ?RJ Meenakshi? is a fictional character, not a real person. The followers on that page are there due to the station, not listening to FM due to the page. When this market matures, name collision will occur and RJs will have to adopt fancy ?stage names? (which are owned by the studios/stations) to protect their real names. Precedent for this is quite prevalent in the US, one example being ?The Artist Formerly Known As Prince?, and other numerous examples in professional (fake) ?wrestling?, where the entire public life of the wrestler is an act, not just the ?matches.?

    This type of question only arises in India because IP Law is very immature and the people have no conception of it. Once an RJ or VJ is forced to change his/her legal name, everything will fall into place.

    1. Karthik Srinivasan
      Karthik Srinivasan at | | Reply

      Alex, ‘Meenakshi’ is the person’s (real, from birth) name and RJ is her profession; like lawyer, chartered acocuntant or advertising professional. Why should that make it the station’s page? That is not a fancy name like Prince – that’s a completely different scenario altogether.

      What if this is her 3rd job as an RJ (in the 3rd radio station)? What if she posts stuff about her life and occasionally plugs stuff from her show in the page?

      I can fully understand fictional names being owned by producers, studios and radio stations – that is SO not the case being discussed here.

      1. Alex C.
        Alex C. at | | Reply

        ?Prince? is not a fancy name. It was (is) his real name, and he was forced to change his name due to this for contract reasons, though now it?s back as the contract has expired. The reason celebrities use fake or stage names is precisely to protect their real names from the studios/stations/publishers/fans. As and when such litigation happens in India, this mixing of personal and professional marketing will cease. The only celebrities who are able to use their real names are stars, i.e., who are independently famous apart from the show/movie/station, and thus are able to put this into their contract. Even then, many celebrities later change their legal name to match their famous name when they acquire sufficient clout to negotiate over contracts.

        1. Karthik Srinivasan
          Karthik Srinivasan at | | Reply

          Hold on. The discussion is not about a person’s real name of fancy name.

          The debate is a person’s identity created as part of a show and his/her real identity.

          RJ is not a fancy title, it is a professional title signifying her profession, much like Dr, for doctor. It just means Radio Jockey, not XYZ’s station’s radio jockey.

          If the name of her Facebook page is just that – a neutral title representing her profession, why should the radio station own her Facebook page?

          There is no ‘independently famous apart from the show/movie/station’ scenario anymore – the show gains from the individual and the individual gains from the show. Sometimes the show has more followers and sometimes it is the other way round… the reason why a show looks at a change of RJ/VJ.

          In both cases, it is up to the RJ/VJ to use their Facebook page appropriately and clarify its usage with the show’s owner.

          We all are at the cusp of a severe intersection between our personal and professional selves. Unless there is an intellectual right involved (the show creating a character and the RJ merely using that character to interact with listeners), I don’t see how his/her personal Facebook page, named after a generic profession, should become the station’s property.

Please comment with your real name using good manners.

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