Satellites

FM radio players protest WorldSpace terrestrial foray

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NEW DELHI: It is not only the television broadcasters that are grappling with the issue of distribution and competition. Private radio broadcasters too have started sampling irritants in this regard.

The private sector FM radio players has complained against satellite radio provider WorldSpace's attempt to get certain licences that would help it distribute the services terrestrially also.

According to information available with Indiantelevision.com, WorldSpace, India's only satellite radio service, is trying to get a license for L-band terrestrial repeater from the information and broadcasting ministry, which, if obtained, will help it to transmit its services on moving vehicles terrestrially --- the primary target audience of FM radio.

"Repeaters are basically targeted at subscribers-on-move like in a car, etc. A satellite radio cannot enter into terrestrial segment by any means," a letter to the government from the Association of radio Operators in India (AROI) states.

Raising the emotional quotient, AROI seems to be appealing to the conscience of the government by saying, "We fail to understand why the Government of India is working on the WorldSpace application even when a proper guideline on satellite radio in India is still not available."

The letter goes on to add that considering FM radio in India is in a nascent stage and the FM radio broadcasters have paid "an exorbitant OTEF (one-time entry fee)". the government should "protect FM radio industry for at least next 10 years."

"Before even waiting for the commissioning of the new stations, the ministry is already making plans to welcome new players into the terrestrial radio arena, directly threatening the existence of the FM Radio licensees. This is not acceptable at all," the high-pitched AROI letter states.

The AROI letter has been marked to prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, defence minister Pranab Mukharjee, home minister Shivraj Patil and telecommunication minister Dayanidhi Maran and I&B ministry secretary SK Arora.

The move of AROI comes at a time when the government is working on putting in place a policy for satellite radio services, including caps on foreign investments, which would force the likes of WordSpace to restructure themselves and find majority Indian partners.

The AROI letter is also likely to put pressure on the government to bring about stringent regulations relating to satellite radio services. The Sector regulator has already submitted a set of recommendations to the I&B ministry.

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