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FM radio: regional media players eye second phase of privatisation

06-January-2005
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FM radio: regional media players eye second phase of privatisation

Regional media players, mainly those in print media, are planning to make a foray into radio in the second phase of privatisation. Companies from Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, Kerala, Assam, Karnataka and Chennai are among those to have expressed interest in FM radio-II. According to industry sources, more than 50 regional print media companies have already made enquiries.

The names doing the rounds include The Sentinel, Dainik Jagran and Rajasthan Patrika, said sources. Interestingly, some automobile companies have also made preliminary enquiries to bid for FM-II. Most phase I players, including Bennett Coleman, Living Media and Sun, are also likely to bid for the next round of FM radio, they indicated. Hindustan Times, which entered into a pact with UK’s Virgin Radio recently, may bid for the second phase. But, as a media expert pointed out, these are early days yet. “The government policy on FM-II will determine who’ll bid and who won’t,” he added. FDI policy, revenue-sharing, and content (whether news is allowed or not) will be some of the key factors that will influence players.

The second round of FM radio would cover over 100 cities and span around 400 frequencies. Currently, 22 private FM stations are operational under phase I. While phase I marked the entry of big players into private FM, phase II would see bidding by smaller entities too.

According to information and broadcasting minister S Jaipal Reddy, the second phase will introduce a radio revolution in the country. Experts agree that radio could be a big regional happening in India, if implemented right. The cost of setting up a radio station could range between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 10 crore.

Even as the government is yet to formulate a policy, Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd (Becil), a PSU, is eyeing big business from FM-II. Becil, which provides complete technical solutions, is targeting business worth at least Rs 100 crore from the setting up of facilites for FM-II players, according to Becil CMD K R P Verma.

Meanwhile, indications are that the government would focus on formulating the FM-II policy first, keeping the issue of appointing a merchant banker on the backburner.

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