BBC mulls 20 % stake in Radio Mid-Day

NEW DELHI: Star might have backed out of the FM radio sector for the time being, but British broadcaster BBC has proposed to pick up an equity stake in Mumbai-based Radio Mid-Day that runs a FM radio station.

According to government sources, BBC Worldwide Ltds proposal envisages the British broadcaster picking up to 20 per cent equity stake in Radio Mid-Day.

The quantum of investment has not been specified in an application moved before the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), which is examining the proposal in consultation with the nodal ministry, information and broadcasting ministry.

Radio Mid-Day, where the paid up equity capital is slightly over Rs. 590 million, operates a private FM radio station in Mumbai.The company has expressed its intention to bid for licences in other cities too during the second phase, beginning early next year.

In Radio Mid-Day, 82 per cent of the stake is held by Mid-day Multimedia, while the remaining shareholding is with a company called Ferrari Investment.

Interestingly, BBC Worldwide has obtained permission from its board of governors to invest up to £ 7 million (approx Rs 550 million) in Indias FM radio sector.

As and when government permission comes through for BBC Worldwide, it would be the second major investment in the Indian media sector.

The first joint venture is with Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd --- publishers of The Times of India and Economic Times, apart from a host of other media ventures --- for publishing scientific and other specialty journals in India.

Another foreign player that is expected to soon throw its hat in the FM ring is Richard Branson's Virgin Radio HT Music in association with Hindustan Times. HT subsidiary Entertainment Pvt Ltd is among the companies that have indicated interest in bidding for the second round of FM licences.

The companies that have expressed interest in running private FM radio stations in 91 cities range from traditional media outfits to clothing outfits to dairy product manufacturers to consultancy firms to trading establishments.

Until now, 100 firms have shown interest in the two-stage bidding process for 338 FM frequencies across India. Quite a few companies have not yet specified the number of frequencies they would bid for as this is just a pre-qualifying round.

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