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Private FM operators face roadblock yet again, to seek respite from government

10-July-2002
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Private FM operators face roadblock yet again, to seek respite from government

Private FM radio operation in Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai is facing a serious roadblock as operators’ negotiations with French transmission infrastructure company TDF have failed, just ahead of the August 29 deadline.

This is despite TDF and the FM licencees negotiating at length over at least 20 sessions and nearly signing the deal. Now the ball is in the government’s court in that it has to take a view on whether FM operators should be given more time or not in paying the licence fee.

Also, the government has to decide on whether or not to allow the private operators to go for individual interim arrangements, as was permitted in Mumbai, before they set up permanent operations in the common towers in each of these three metros.

Although TDF’s Indian subsidiary firm Mediacast was given a letter of intent by private FM licencees for integrating their operations in Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, Mediacast decided to pull out of the project as it was getting increasingly tough to arrive at a consensus.

It is being said that a couple of FM players being backed by a competing infrastructure company are behind this upset. Among other things, last-minute requests made by FM players including those on lock-in period, termination options and free transmission prompted TDF’s subsidiary to opt out of the project.

With the deadline of August 29 drawing close, the recent developments are being seen as a major setback for the private radio operation in the metros, barring Mumbai.

With TDF’s subsidiary not interested in the project any longer and the deadline for the private players to set up the operations and pay the licence fee so near, the FM operators want an interim set-up now.

According to sources, some FM players have written to the ministry of information and broadcasting with the request that they be granted permission to go for individual interim arrangements.

It may be recalled that All India Radio has offered its towers in the three metros to co-locate the private transmitters. The only solution, according to an official in a private FM company, is to set up separate interim arrangements as fast as possible.

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