Stage is set for faster rollout of FM Phase III expansion in the country with the Union Cabinet approving the recommendations of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) at a meeting held on March 3, 2013 regarding amendments in the policy guidelines for expansion of FM radio broadcasting services through private agencies in Phase III.
Talking exclusively to exchange4media, Uday Varma, Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting said, “Radio Phase III is expected to be completed by the end of this financial year. We will have 839 new radio stations in the private sector. Thus, practically every town with population of more than 1 lakh will be covered. We should be in a position to issue Request For Proposal (RFP) around this month itself and we hope to have an auctioneer in place in two months or so and begin the process of auction. The objective is to complete this process by the end of this financial year.”
Apart from the radio auction, various amendments in the policy for expansion of FM radio broadcasting services through private agencies were also discussed at the meeting. The industry experts have decided to charge migration fee from existing operators on their migration from Phase ll to Phase Ill. The amount of migration fee will be decided after consultations with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
The EGoM also approved the auction of 839 channels in 294 cities, to be awarded through ascending e-auction, as was approved by the Cabinet at its meeting held on July 7, 2011. The additional channels that may become available due to reduced channel spacing to 400 KHz can be considered subsequently after feasibility studies are completed.
The EGoM also decided that the authority to make any other minor changes in RFP will be delegated to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Reacting to the development, Vineet Singh Hukmani, MD & CEO, Radio One said, “The Cabinet clearing Phase III is great news. 839 new FM radio stations will make radio the most dominant medium in the country. The Government has done its job in instituting e-auction, which is a transparent process and it is up to the players now to bid wisely. Reserve price needs to be looked into to take into account a slow economy. The most critical issue is extension of existing players’ license from 10 years to 15 years to be on par with Phase III licensees. This will ensure existing players will bid confidently as their current businesses will be secure.”
Welcoming the move, Tarun Katial, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network said, “We look forward to a fair and transparent e-auction process that will result in greater value for our stakeholders. Our investment decisions will be driven by payback and IRR (internal rate of return), and the future projected growth of key markets.”