Monopoly or lack of competition is not always a profitable situation as Positiv Radio Private Ltd, a private broadcaster from the North-East promoted by NETV, is finding out to its chagrin.
Players like Adlabs and South Asia FM have left the race midway in the North-East, despite having won licences in Agartala and Itanagar, in order to comply with the government norm, which permits a player to hold a maximum of 15 per cent of the total allotted FM frequencies, which comes to 45.
Speaking to exchange4media, Manoranjana Sinh, Chairman and MD, NETV, said, “In Agartala and Itanagar, we are forced to bear the whole infrastructure cost, which otherwise should have been shared by all the players. As the cost is decidedly exorbitant, we are in a difficult situation.”
According to the FM Phase II norms, the infrastructure cost has to be borne by all the players in a city. So, in these two cities, the burden of the cost comes heavily on Positiv Radio.
“We have urged the Ministry to ask BECIL to charge us proportionately as the government would be inviting rebidding for these cities some time in the future and the same infrastructure will be utilised by all the players,” Sinh said.
“If we have to bear the whole cost, then why should we take the help of BECIL and why not set up the infrastructure ourselves, in which case we could do it at a much lower cost?” she asked.
Sinh further said that the entire land requirement for the FM players was specified by Prasar Bharati on the advice of BECIL, and players were charged accordingly. “The land specified is much higher than the actual land required,” she alleged.
On the necessary equipment front for which BECIL is negotiating on behalf of broadcasters, Sinh said, “The Ministry has made the norm that only vendors pre-qualified by BECIL can supply the equipment, which we find horrendous. Why should the LOI holders not be allowed to be part of the negotiations?” she queried.
NETV, the only private satellite operator from the North-East, is mostly tapping local talent for its FM radio venture. It has decided to name its Guwahati radio station as Radio Ooh La La. “It will be 80 per cent local music and 20 per cent Hindi and Western music,” Sinh informed, adding, “In Agartala, it will be mostly Bengali music, whereas in Shillong it will be a mix of local and English music as Hindi is Greek to this area.”