Friday, May 03, 2013

FM radio phase III e-auction to take off

Addressing the unmet need for radio services in cities other than the big metros , the Union Cabinet is likely to take up e-auction of phase III of FM radio that envisages setting up 839 FM radio channels in 294 cities. The auction for phase III had come under a cloud after the 2G spectrum scam hit the government and has now been delayed by two years. The e-auction is intended to take place this year providing all cities with a population of more than 1 lakh with private radio services. There are expectations that the project will generate an additional revenue of Rs 1500 crore.

I&B ministry plans to prioritize expansion of radio services in the border areas and in the north-eastern states. Existing operators and new players have been waiting for the auction to expand in to new territories. Among the new provisions include content sharing between stations and permission to broadcast AIR news that are likely to benefit operators and bring down running costs. No one group, according to the new guidelines, can hold more than 15% channels in the country, but there is no such ceiling for north-east , UTs like Lakshwadeep and Andamans and J&K. These regions have been given special incentives under phase III to encourage quick development and combat propaganda from across the border.

Other significant provisions for border towns and NE areas include a reduction by half of the annual licence fee that would constitute 4% of the gross revenue earned or 2.5% of the one time entry fee for other cities. If the FM station uses AIR or DD infrastructure , its rental will be cut down to 50%. The government has also referred the issue of migration charge — to be paid by FM radio companies migrating from phase II to III — to Trai. According to sources, the ministry will appoint an auctioneer . "We will take a call on whether the auction for all towns will be in one phase or more after consultations with the auctioneer," ministry sources said.