With the government announcing the commencement of e-auctions in Phase III FM policy from December 2012, momentum has built up in the FM radio industry after months of lull. With this development, 25 FM players have applied for migration from Phase II to Phase III.
However, according to radio players, there are a few roadblocks to be overcome before getting the Phase III FM process back on track smoothly.
First bone of contention is that as per a pre-requisite for Grant of Permission Agreement (GOPA), radio players have to pay back all pending dues to the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd (BECIL) and Prasar Bharati that are carried over from Phase II FM policy, which includes dues for setting up the infrastructure.
Radio players have requested the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to remove this condition and waive off the dues.
Vineet Singh Hukmani, Managing Director, Radio One shared that Rs 1700 crore is at stake here as the proposed earnings from Phase III, whereas the dues amount to around Rs 14-15 crore. “We all will be benefitted; there will be more revenue from news from All India Radio, current affairs, sports, and the taxes to the government will also be higher. Hence, the Ministry must act soon and not be pound foolish,” he urged.
Hukmani further said that all players are keen to migrate to Phase III, which will give a financial boost to the radio industry and buoy investor confidence in this industry. FM Phase III policy extends FM radio services to about 227 new cities, in addition to the present 86 cities, with a total of 839 new FM radio channels in 294 cities. Phase III policy will result in coverage of all cities with a population of one lakh and above with private FM radio channels.
“Radio Mirchi is keen to participate aggressively in Phase III and is well prepared for it,” affirmed Prashant Panday, CEO, Radio Mirchi.
Harrish M Bhatia, CEO, My FM, too, stressed on the point that they were eager to move ahead. “We have all applied and are waiting for the government’s green signal, but response has been slow,” he said.
The radio players lament the lack of clarity regarding a lot of issues in the migration to Phase III. As Bhatia remarked, “It’s an ambiguous situation. The government has been talking on this for a year now.”
Here, Panday pointed out that the MIB must first accept the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) recommendation on reducing channel separation to 400KHz from the present 800KHz. “This will be good for everyone – the broadcasters will get more channels, while listeners will get more programme variety,” noted Panday.
“The government is aware of all these issues. It has realised the seriousness of this, and we are hopeful that the Ministry will step in to help us out,” Hukmani concluded on a positive note.