If everything goes as per plans, private FM radio operators in Chennai, New Delhi and Kolkata may all finally be on air by March 2003.
Two FM operators Millennium Broadcasting (Win FM) and Go FM (Mid-day group) have opted out even before the race has begun in New Delhi and Chennai. This leaves New Delhi with only three players - Radio Today (Red FM), Radio Mirchi (Times Group) and Radio City (Star India); Chennai with two players - Radio Mirchi and Surya FM (Sun TV).
Right from the start, the launch of FM stations in the metros (other than in Mumbai where private FM is already on air) has been fraught with implementation issues. First, MediaCast (the Indian subsidiary of TDF, a French transmission infrastructure provider), which was appointed as the technical integrator, walked out of the negotiations. The process was further delayed when the Government refused to relax stipulations regarding payment of the license fee. The other hassle was the Government stipulation regarding a single tower for all FM players.
According to analysts the high licence fee for operating in the metros has forced many to rethink the viability of the business. For instance, the bidding price for the Mumbai license was reportedly about Rs 9.75 crore. This amount, for an industry, which has an expected turnover of less than Rs 100 crore, is exorbitant.