The FM industry has been patient and it has been optimistic but there has been little it has got to show for it. In four months, the licenses for some of the most well-known radio stations will expire; technically making them kaput. For the past several months, the FM industry has been struggling to get the government to take a more proactive stand to the plight of the radio industry. The latest news was that the Phase III auctions would be over by February but that is not something that is really going to help radio operators get a good night’s sleep. But there is another bump on the roadway; the recent announcement that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) ministry would now change hands; going from Prakash Javadekar to Arun Jaitley. But radio players seem to be taking it in their stride; in fact, they think it is actually a positive step.
"We are excited by the news that Arun Jaitley is assuming additional responsibility of the Ministry of I&B. He is one of the seniormost ministers in the government and his arrival at MIB will ensure that all pending issues are resolved quickly. For the FM radio industry, the auctions under Phase III and the renewal of Phase II licenses are of paramount importance. We hope he can implement these quickly,” said Prashant Pandey, MD & CEO at ENIL.
It is no hidden fact that for the past few months; the radio industry has been trying to push for a speedy resolution of the Phase III auctions. But, for some reason or the other, this matter has kept getting delayed. Though radio operators have been generally optimistic with the new government, it would be fair to say that the amount of time being taken to resolve and take forward the Phase III auctions has been a thorn on the side of most of the operators.
When asked for his opinion on the reshuffling of the ministries, Vineet Singh Hukmani, MD of Radio One said, “Arun Jaitey has been brought in to expedite issues related to FM radio extensions and auctions as earlier the government was not able to do so. It is very wise of the PM to club the MIB with the Finance Ministry as the auctions (Phase III auctions) will directly help the exchequer to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore plus.”
In fact, most of the radio operators we spoke with also seemed positive that the Finance and Information & Broadcasting Ministry is under one roof. Harrish Bhatia, CEO of MY FM says, “I liked Arun Jaitley’s statement on the importance of different mediums. Like the PM, he also seems to understand the importance of radio and I hope that he continues with the quick progress seen under Prakash Javadekar.” When asked about the fact that both the finance and I&B ministries would be under the same person, he said, “ This is a very good development but they have to give the person enough time to figure out things.”
Similar thoughts were echoed by Ashwin Padmanabhan, National Business Head at Big FM, who felt that it would lead to better co-ordination between the finance and I&B ministries.
The private FM radio has been waiting with bated breath for the government to make some progress in terms of the next phase of radio expansion. After a static period, there has been hope that the new government will be more proactive in addressing the plight of the radio industry. So far, though the way has been slow, there have been efforts taken in the right direction. With the I&B ministry and the finance ministry now under the same purview, radio operators are hopeful that it will lead to even more proactive steps.