Owing to the delay on the part of Prasar Bharati and BECIL in setting up the joint infrastructure at various cities where new FM radio stations have to be launched, individual broadcasters are establishing their own infrastructure to begin operations in the cities where government has allowed interim transmission of FM radio.
The government has allowed interim transmission only in the four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai, and in the cities of Jaipur, Hyderabad and Bangalore.
Some players have tied up with BECIL, the PSE consultancy agency, for setting up the infrastructure. “Radio City has signed an agreement with us for interim transmission at Chennai, Hyderabad and Jaipur, whereas we will be helping Synergy Media establish their transmission centre at Jaipur,” said BECIL MD, K P Verma.
However, some other players have decided to go on their own. “We are setting up the infrastructure in the three non-metro cities on our own where we don’t have a presence,” said Prasant Pandey, Dy CEO, Radio Mirchi.
But given the huge investment needed even for an interim arrangement for transmission (industry estimates put it anywhere between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 40 lakh) before the common infrastructure comes into play, in which case all the players have to use the infrastructure provided by Prasar Bharati as per law, are the hasty investments justified?
“Yes,” felt Pandey. “Being a serious radio player, we have to make the investment from a long term perspective so that we can advance the launch of the stations by six to seven months,” he explained.
“Since nobody knows how many months the government will take to set up the common infrastructure, we, therefore, decided to go on our own and set up the interim transmission,” said Sanjay Kumar Jain, DGM-Projects, Synergy Media.
Analysts feel that it is the ‘first-mover advantage’ for which players are rushing to launch the stations as soon as possible. “Though the player who launches the station first will have the advantage for a few months only, still that is very crucial,” said Nisha Narayanan, an independent media consultant.
So, when can we expect these stations to start operations? “We are expecting to start operations latest by June or July for our clients,” said the head of a radio consulting firm who is helping a few players in this regard.
Though Radio Mirchi’s Pandey is noncommittal about the launch of its stations, industry sources revealed that that the FM station’s preparations were at an advanced stage and that it had already started test runs in Jaipur.
However, some players think its better to wait and watch. “There is a great deal of confusion prevailing, thanks to the government’s indecisiveness. It will take at least one month for the situation to be clearer. As in big cities like Delhi and Kolkata, one needs huge investment as compared to the smaller cities, hence, we have not taken any final decision regarding interim transmission,” said Kirti Vasan of HT Music.