The Sun TV Network, which includes 33 TV channels and 45 radio stations under the brands RED FM and Suryan FM, could well face closure following a high level meeting between PMO, MIB and Home Ministry representatives. Media reports suggest that the PMO is siding with the Home Ministry, which has been adamantly against granting security clearance to the company.
The company has been struggling to get clearances for its TV and radio operations from the Home Ministry due to an ongoing CBI investigation against Director and Founder, Kalanithi Maran.
According to an industry source, the final decision will be taken once Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Arun Jaitley, is back from his ongoing US trip later this week. Mr Jaitley is expected to have a key bearing on the case. However, another source suggested that the I&B Minister was not likely to go against his colleagues in the PMO and Home Ministry. Though this scenario is possible, the Minister will also have to weigh this alongside the fact that the absence of a major player in the auctions would lead to financial setbacks to the government exchequer.
It has also been learnt that security clearances for all other entities interested in bidding for Phase III radio frequencies have been passed, which just leaves the matter of Suryan FM and RED FM to be sorted. The head of one FM station, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that assurances have been given by the government to all radio players that Phase III auctions would be wrapped up in July irrespective of the status of the two operators.
It seems unlikely that the Sun Group, which operates the largest private FM network in the country, will take this lying down. It is looking more and more probable that the Group will resort to legal means if the decision goes against them. This could mean that the company could potentially ask the Court to stay the auctions till the matter is sorted and its FM brands are allowed to participate. If this does happen, then the auctions might end up getting further delayed.
Meanwhile, as reported earlier by exchange4media, private FM operators have expressed their support for their two, beleaguered peers.
The Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI), the industry body representing private FM operators in the country, has written to the PM seeking his intervention in the case. The letter claims that denial of security clearance without a court conviction would create a “dangerous precedent” and lead to “anarchy”.
The entire text of the letter is reproduced below:
Respected Shri Modi ji,
Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI) is the official association of private radio operators in India, with the objective of ensuring growth of Radio Industry in India, and to catalyze development of the country through this highly effective media.
We have noted with concern the various reports in Media and otherwise that Home Ministry has refused security clearance to Red FM (part of Sun Group) which could result in closure of over 45 stations being operated in the country. This would result in loss of employment of a few thousand direct employees, complete erosion of wealth created by this brand as well as loss of infotainment source for citizens in over 45 cities and towns in India.
Radio is the only free to air media in India, wherein no charges are to be paid directly or indirectly by listeners. It is also easily accessible at no or low cost through mobiles or cheap radio sets. In fact it is the poor citizens main source of information and entertainment. Radio has also played a major role in times of national calamities. In fact even Red FM has received Chief Minister awards from Odissa and Andhra Pradesh for the extensive coverage at the time of cyclone in these states. which helped saved lacs of lives. Even during Nepal earthquake, Red FM helped in raising money for victims in association with Nepalese radio stations, leading to confidence building in civil society of our neighboring country.
Therefore we are surprised that these stations face closure, due to a pending investigation against the major shareholder. It may be pertinent to point out that no conviction has yet been made and that denial of security clearance without a court conviction would create a dangerous precedent. Imagine if leaders in politics, businesses and other institutions are to lose their positions basis unproven complaints. This could lead to anarchy. We object to Media being singled out as an exception as even politicians holding highly sensitive government positions do continue till proven guilty, even when there are serious charges against them.
Over more than a decade of existence of Red FM, AROI has not received or is aware of, any action by Red FM which resulted in any threat to national security. In fact as mentioned they have received awards from Government instead. Therefore we see no reason why Red FM should be treated as a national security threat. Regarding complaints against specific individuals, law will definitely take its own course and justice done. Destruction of wealth, without any purpose, is not justice.
We therefore request your kind intervention in ensuring that Red FM continues to operate.