Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Auction for over 90 FM Radio Stations in India Soon

BY: Naz Agzar

New Delhi, May 2-2k7 (UNI) The Government is soon going to auction licence for operating over 90 FM radio stations for which bids were not received in the Phase II of the liberalisation of radio.

Moreover, it has received 35 more applications for running thecommunity radio under the new liberalised policy. At present as many as 57 private FM radiostations are operational. The Information and Broadcasting ministry would review theoperations of the 250 radio stations which are expected to go on airby the year end, and then decide the time for bidding for thevacancies, an official told UNI.

Commercial viablity of the FM radio stations would be one of themain factors to be taken into consideration. Most of these licnces would be given for class C and D cities. The process for reaching FM radio far and wide in the countrybegan last year when licences for 250 radio station across 91 citieswere sold, which brought the government a revenue of 1,100 Crore.

Major players that went in for aggressive bidding in the Phase IIincluded the Sun Group, Anil Ambani-controlled Adlabs, the TimesGroup and HT Music etc. Realising the mistakes of the 'licensing model' of the FirstPhase of FM Policy, which was a disaster, the government had adoptedthe revenue-sharing model in the second phase, which attracted alarge number of bidders.

A mere 22 private FM channels were operationalised in Phase I,and one of these had closed down, citing high license fee as thereason for unsustainability of its operation.The government had earned a sum of only Rs 37 crore from auctionof 29 channels in 2000 as advance fee for setting up FM stations.

All India Radio (AIR) was then projected to earn Rs 530 crore inthe first year from the auction of about 100 FM stations in 40cities in the first phase with a 15 per cent increase every year, after setting out with a reserve price of only Rs 75.4 crore. However, several companies later went to court alleging thelicence fee was too high and the guidelines too rigid.

The community radio which had so far been been set up by mostlyeducational institutions will soon see new players as the Governmenthas now decided to broad base the policy by bringing 'Non-profit'organisations like civil society and voluntary organisations etcunder its ambit in order to allow greater participation by the civilsociety on issues relating to development and social change

The Ministry official said that 35 more applications, mostly fromNGOs had been received for setting up community radio. So far close to 60 letters of intent have been issued for settingup community radio.//EOM//