Private FM radio service in three metro circles— Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai — is almost certainly going to be delayed. The government had set August 29 as the deadline for private operators to pay the licence fee and begin the FM radio operations in these three cities, there are clear indications that the service may not begin before the end of the year.
And the reason for the delay. The integrator for the private FM operations in the three metros has not been appointed yet. Despite the long-winding negotiations between private players and Mediacast, the Indian subsidiary of France-based transmission infrastructure company TDF, over the last five months, no deal has been signed yet.
According to a legal expert tracking the FM radio contract, there are too many parties involved in this case, thereby making it a complex agreement. Besides the six FM radio players covering these cities, the contract involves the integrator company, Prasar Bharati and the government. Also, there are certain major issues in the FM agreement which are being negotiated, sources said. Long term implications of the contract, which is under consideration now, cannot be ignored, sources added.
According to the sources, August 29 was an impossible target to meet. FM licencees are hopeful that the agreement would be signed in the next ten days or so. But, the time taken to complete the integration, which would enable FM licencees to start their operations, is at least 18 weeks. So, even if a deal is signed in the first week of July, FM services cannot begin before November.
The integrator will be responsible for putting in place the common multiplexers, cable and antenna for all the FM players in Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. Besides this the company will also help the FM players install their individual transmitters in these cities.
Besides Mediacast, other transmission service companies or ‘integrators’ who were in contention for the FM radio projects, included foreign players such as UK-based NTL and Measat of Malaysia.
While private FM players in Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata have been allowed to co-locate their transmitters on the All India Radio (AIR) towers, AIR Mumbai does not have the capacity to allow such a co-location of transmitters. So, the Mumbai players opted for an interim arrangement.