FM players seek FDI at par with GECs since only AIR news permitted

NEW DELHI: The Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the radio sector should be increased and the government should consider a 15 per cent national ceiling for future auctions and allow news on private FM radio, private FM players have said.

A Stakeholders’ Consultation on 22 January on the Phase III e-Auction showed that the players wanted a lock-in period of three years on composition of largest Indian shareholder.

Information & Broadcasting Ministry Secretary Sunil Arora said that the aim of FM Phase III was to enhance radio density in the country and efforts should be made for supporting FM radio to grow into a viable business model. He wanted all stakeholders to give their suggestions and inputs in writing by 30 January if they so desire considering that some stakeholders have already submitted their suggestions in meeting.

FM operators felt that the reserve prices recommended by TRAI on 24 March 2015 were very high and unviable. However, Ministry officials said the TRAI recommendations were advisory in nature.

Similarly, it was stated that the rentals by Prasar Bharati were very high.

It was also argued that the FDI limit could be increased to 100 per cent to bring it at par with the general entertainment channels as no news other than that from All India Radio was permitted.

This suggestion from Reliance Broadcasting found favour with many of the participants but some companies like ENIL and DB Corp wanted permission to make news bulletins on their own. The Association of Radio Operators in India (AROI) said news from PTI and ANI could be permitted.

AROI said if subsequent auction takes place in batches without relaxing the 15 per cent national cap, then this cap should be applied on overall number of channels being put to auction in phase III and not batch wise. 

ENIL found it unreasonable that Phase II migrant licenses were made to undergo three years’ lock-in restriction under Phase III regime as well when they had already served five years’ lock-in under Phase II. But HT Media said the lock-in requirement was fundamental to FM Phase III policy.

Representative of Digital Radio Broadcasting also suggested that connected companies of a Group be treated as a single entity for participation in online bidding / auction process.

Suggestions for future rounds included more clock rounds per day; increase of Auction Activity Requirement (AAR); apart from auction report at the end of the day, and report of each round.

ENIL referred to delay of security clearance of its directors and key operatives from Home Ministry.

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