Private radio players take woes to law ministry

MUMBAI: The spectre of death may be looming larger than ever but private FM players in the country seem determined not to give in without a fight.

On 26 May, all five players in Mumbai, Radio City, Radio Mirchi, Go, Win and RED made a joint representation to the law minister in New Delhi on the vexed issue of licensing fee structure for the radio stations. The matter, says Star India's radio division COO Sumantra Dutta is now in the law ministry's purview. The Monday meeting focussed on the industry asking for a rationalisation of the license fee structure which is currently stacked against the private players.

Dutta points out that while the five players in Mumbai spent an estimated Rs 500 million last year, the aggregate revenues did not amount to more than Rs 260 million.

At a session at this year's Ficci Frames, Dutta had said that the high licenses, that came into effect after a blistering bidding process three years ago, are killing the fledgling private FM players. "The media landscape is dominated by television and press. Twenty three parties had bid over Rs 4.25 billion for 108 frequencies in 40 cities in the initial process. Of these, only 10 paid their bank guarantees and only 37 frequencies are functional," Dutta had pointed out. 

Today, Dutta says the outlook is even bleaker. The temporary closure of Win 94.6 (which has been switched off since yesterday afternoon over alleged non payment of license fees for the current year) is bad news for the entire radio industry, feels Dutta. The growth rate of private FM is directly proportional to the number of stations in a city. Disruptions and closures will only add to the woes of the industry and not help matters, he says.

Dutta's Radio City is attempting to pump up adrenaline by launching eight new shows next week, but he says only a revenue sharing agreement between the government and radio stations could help in the scenario. 

The ongoing spat with the music industry (with production houses like Rajshris withholding the rights to the music of their forthcoming films from blaring non stop on FM stations, as was the norm till date) is also at an impasse with the matter now sub judice. Negotiations with the Indian Music Industry have come to nought, says Dutta.

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