Having binged on resource-sharing between All India Radio (AIR) and private FM players in the first phase of privatisation, the government is taking a second look at the concept for the next round of private FM. In fact, the government is examining a strategy, whereby AIR FM stations and private FM radio do not overlap in coverage, according to a Prasar Bharati official.
For the second phase of private FM radio, which is set to be opened up in the first quarter of 2003, around 70 cities have been identified. As for AIR FM, around 60 to 65 stations are expected to come up till 2007. According to AIR official the proposal is still in the draft stage. The official admitted that there is overlap between cities where AIR FM and private FM stations are set to be located, as per the current draft. But, if the government decides to avoid any overlapping of cities, the list of cities for FM radio will be changed.
At present, there are 234 AIR FM stations in around 200 cities/towns. Private FM is present in nine cities. Private FM stations are expected to come up in another six cities in the first phase of privatisation.
In the resource-sharing deals, AIR garnered around Rs 20 crore worth of revenues in the past one year or so. Besides a venture with Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou), AIR shared its resources including its buildings with private FM radio licencees in various cities. The co-location clause made private FM licencees share AIR resources and install their transmitters on the AIR towers in metros, Mumbai being an exception.
In non-metros, though co-location is not mandatory, private licencees are free to opt for resource-sharing with AIR. Among private licencees, so far only Music Broadcast Private Ltd (the Ispat-Star venture) has shared the AIR resources in Lucknow.
But, once the government decides to go the pure-play public broadcaster way and stop overlap of coverage, resource-sharing revenues of Prasar Bharati will certainly take a hit. However, when it comes to the content of private FM radio stations in the second phase, there isn’t any change from phase one. No news and current affairs will be allowed, is the clear diktat from the government.