Trai fails to announce FM recommendations, no clue still on when

NEW DELHI: The radio broadcast industry has to wait for some more time before the broadcast and cable regulator comes out with its recommendations, which would also pave the way for the second phase of privatisation of FM radio.


Speaking to today, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) chairman Pradip Baijal said, "It'll be sometime before we finalise our recommnedations (on FM radio). There are still some issues to be resolved."

However, Baijal refused to dwell on the issues on which the regulator would need some more clarificiations, saying, "When things are ready, we will inform the media."

Still, Trai sources indicated that consensus on recommending foreign investment in private FM radio ventures is not emerging even with the organisation.

There are varied views on the issue as also how the modlaities for a change in the licensing regime would be worked out. An expert panel, headed by Ficci's Dr Amit Mitra, had suggested that a licencing regime based on highest bid be changed to a revenue sharing model, a la telecom sector.

But then some people in Trai feel that the FM radio sector and the telecom sector cannot be compared.

But what can speed up Trai on, at least as far as the FM radio matter is concerned, are the encouraging words emanating from information and broadcasting minister Jaipal Reddy. Speaking to reporters in Hyderabad yesterday, Reddy dwelt on a whopping 400 FM and community radio stations in the pipeline.

It was on 12 February the government sent the report of the Mitra Committee to Trai for making appropriate recommendations. On 11 February five private FM broadcasters had met the then deputy prime minister LK Advani and submitted a representation requesting for deferment of the annual FM license fee till the government took a decision on implementation of the FM Radio Task Force recommendations. This representation had been referred to Trai for its recommendations by the government on 24 February.

Accordingly, Trai had come out with an interim recommendation earlier this year that all licensees could be given the option of deferring their next instalment of dues subject to the condition that they would pay this amount, after the issue is decided by government, with interest as may be decided finally.

This suggestion could not be implemented as the general elections were round the corner and the bureaucracy stalled such policy initiaives, which would have breached the model code of conduct leading up to polls.

Since then the issue has been hanging fire.

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