Prasar Bharati has embarked on an ambitious plan to globalise FM radio operations of All India Radio. As part of this plan, three beams including Asian beam, East African beam and S E Asian beam have been taken from Asian Star Satellite.
Prasar Bharati, according to its CEO, K.S. Sarma, is working out plans to reach out to USA, UK and other overseas destinations. In fact, AIR FM is already making waves following Prasar Bharati's deal with Mauritius Radio to air FM programmes. Prasar Bharati now plans to float global tenders for down linking digitised FM signals to air FM programmes abroad.
Besides expanding the reach of FM Radio to overseas destinations, I & B Ministry has prepared a blue print for strengthening FM operations in India by putting up new FM transmitters and opening more FM stations.
The ministry's action plan aims at increasing the number of FM stations from 9 to 60 in the 10th Five-Year Plan. Particularly as FM has become a major revenue earner in metro cities due to its growing popularity. AIR FM2 that broadcasts news and entertainment programmes in four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta and Chennai reaches out to 2 billion listeners.
Last year, a major chunk of the Rs.80 crore revenue earned by the AIR was contributed by FM service. This fiscal, Prasar Bharati expects to earn Rs. 100 crore of revenue.
There are also plans to add 100 more transmitters to the existing 130 transmitters during 10th Plan for FM service, using a larger bandwidth to provide a programming service of high fidelity. In fact most part of the Rs. 1500 crore budget earmarked for the development of radio during 10th Plan will go into technical development - transmitters. VA Magazine, president, Programme Producers Association of Doordarshan and AIR however questions the validity of putting up more transmitters when out of 130 existing FM transmitters, hardly 10 - 15 are running at full capacity.
Meanwhile the second phase of FM radio privatisation is set to take off early next year after the 25 FM stations go on air with the completion of the first phase. According to Sarma, Prasar Bharati's immediate priority is to increase the number of FM1 stations from 9 to 15 and FM2 stations from 4 to 10 by the turn of the new year.