The radio sector’s three-year wait for Phase III does not seem to be anywhere close to an end. Though the MIB has verbally given a guarantee that the auctions will be held by December, the sector is still waiting for the process to move forward.
There are two major roadblocks in the Phase III auctions right now. The first concerns the ad for the technical bid, which has been pending since September. The reason given was that it was waiting for MIB minister, Prakash Javadekar’s signature.
I&B Minister speeds up Phase III migration, signs off ad for tech bids
It has now been learnt that the minister wants a co-signatory on the final draft, which will be either the Finance Minister or the Prime Minister himself.
A few radio operators we spoke to said that it has been intimated that the ad would be released before Diwali. However, not everyone is as optimistic.
Uday Chawla, Secretary of AROI (Association of Radio Operators for India) said, “We are hoping for the formal announcement in the first week of November.” Others, however, feel that the process will take even longer. “The minister has been busy with the state elections. This does not seem to be a priority for the government right now,” said one radio operator.
The Phase III auctions have been consistently delayed for three years. Earlier this year, the government had announced that the auctions would happen by October; a deadline that was further delayed to December later. Now, said a source, the auctions might likely happen in January.
FM Phase III auction set in motion with MIB likely accepting TRAI's proposals
Apart from the delay in releasing the technical bid, another issue is that once the minister signs off on the TRAI recommendations, an official announcement of which has still not been made, the proposal will have to go back for cabinet approval, which can happen, at the earliest, during the winter session of parliament in November.
Radio operators are understandably fretting over the delay. “If the government is serious about a pro business and pro exchequer stance, they must hold the acquisitions as quickly as possible. There is Rs 2,000 crore at stake for this fiscal,” said Vineet Singh Hukmani, MD of Radio One.