FM radio broadcasters have opposed the satellite radio company WorldSpace’s proposal to offer terrestrial radio broadcast. They have written to the ministry of information and broadcasting against issuing ‘terrestrial repeater’ licence to WorldSpace.
A terrestrial repeater will enable WorldSpace to provide its broadcast in cars, directly impacting the business model of FM radio operators. Satellite radio, on the other hand, beams signals directly to home via satellites.
Currently, there are no guidelines for regulating satellite radio in India, while FM radio is highly regulated and has gradually opened up after suffering heavy losses under the licence fee regime.
The Association of Radio Operators of India (AROI) in its letter said, “We fail to understand why government of India is working on WorldSpace application, even when proper guidelines on satellite radio are still not available.”
According to sources, WorldSpace moved its application for terrestrial repeater in one month. “It is trying to get licence for L-Band terrestrial repeater (1452; 1492 MHz) ) from I&B ministry,” sources said.
Once the licence is provided, WorldSpace will beam its radio stations including news, sports and music stations directly to listeners in cars, thereby making FM radio non-viable. Registering protest, Rajiv Mishra, coordinator, AROI and CEO of Radio Masti said FM Radio in India is in its nascent stage and the broadcasters had paid exorbitant one-time-entry fee. “Government will have to protect FM radio industry for at least next 10 years. The ministry is already making plans to welcome new players into the terrestrial radio arena, directly threatening the existence of the FM radio licencees. This is not acceptable,” he said.
Expressing concern, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in its consultation paper said, “Absence of a licensing policy causes several problems, including absence of a ‘level playing field’ with respect to FM operators, regulatory uncertainty on the part of the existing and potential satellite radio operators and haphazard development of this important industry.”