Private FM Radio licensees in the four metros are expecting to begin their transmission by September-October, if they’re granted permission to set up independent interim radio stations before they can go for a permanent consortium tower. Although top officials of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry have held discussions with FM licensees on this issue, the government has not issued a formal response yet.
The tender document for setting up private FM Radio services states that FM licensees must have the transmission tower ready within 12 months of getting their frequencies allocated. But the FM players feel that it’s too short a time to have the permanent tower ready. The government issued the frequency allocation letters for FM operations in the last week of December 2000.
According to Mr G Krishnan, Executive Director, TV Today, who heads the FM Radio section of the group, FM players in the four metros sent a joint letter to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry three weeks ago requesting it to give them more time for setting up the common permanent tower in each city. Also, the FM licensees have asked the government to grant them permission to set up individual transmission stations on top of buildings for an interim period so that they can begin transmission without wasting any time.
The buildings, on which the interim transmission stations could be set up, include Doordarshan, All India Radio, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), Railways or any other building with requisite height and structure.
The cost of the interim transmission station could vary from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 20 lakh per FM player, depending on the height and structure of the building on which it is set up, says Mr Krishnan. For setting up the permanent structure, there are two options. The first option for the FM players is to get the common tower built and own it, which will cost each player in a city approximately Rs 3 crore to Rs 3.3 crore—a one-time cost, he says. The second option for them is to take a tower on rent, which will cost each player Rs 60 lakh to Rs 70 lakh per annum.
Commenting on the FM scenario, the Information and Broadcasting Minister, Ms Sushma Swaraj, said recently: ‘‘We want the FM players to begin their transmission as soon as possible. But the I&B Ministry will have a role to play once the broadcasters set up the tower.’’
The FM Radio sector was thrown open to bidding by private players last year. And in the first phase of privatisation itself, the government collected Rs 158.75 crore from 16 companies as licence fee. For the second phase of bidding, 70 cities have been identified.