Regulators

Calculate FM migration fee on reserve price for cities with no bids: TDSAT

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NEW DELHI: The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry was today directed to take the reserve price as the bid amount for computation of the non-refundable One Time Migration Fee (NOTMF) for migrating from Phase II to Phase III of Radio FM in cities where no successful bids had come in the recent e-auction.

According to the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), all FM channels of Phase II in these cities, which had applied for migration to Phase III will pay this amount within three working days of receiving the computed figure.

Stressing that this was only an interim measure, TDSAT chairman Aftab Alam and members Kuldip Singh and B B Srivastava made it clear that in case the petition failed, the applicants would have to payment the balance of the NOTMF with interest within the date specified by the Tribunal.

Listing the matter for further hearing on 26 November, the Tribunal asked the Ministry represented by counsel Rajeev Sharma to file its reply by 13 November and the petitioner – Association of Radio Operators in India (AROI) represented by counsel Abhishek Malhotra – to file rejoinder - if any - by 20 November.

The Tribunal had yesterday extended the last date of payment of 75 per cent balance of NOTMF till today.

AROI has challenged the criteria for NOTMF for migrating from Phase II to Phase III of Radio FM.

The primary plea of AROI is that the I&B Ministry is charging very high fee for smaller cities for NOTMF.

During arguments, Malhotra said that the plea taken by the Ministry for the cities, which were put up for auction but failed to get successful bids was erroneous. The Ministry had reiterated the plea of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that the final prices for allocation of channels in such cities have not been determined.

Malhotra said that existing Phase II FM operators in these cities who wanted to migrate had to be told the NOTMF they could pay for migration.

Earlier in a letter to I&B secretary Sunil Arora, TRAI secretary Sudhir Gupta rejected the plea of AROI in this regard with regard to ten cities for which no bids had come in the recent e-auctions.

Gupta said the AROI had in its representation “assumed zero percent increase in reserve prices for 10 group Z cities where auction was unsuccessful as no bids were received. This assumption of AROI is not tenable as the final prices for allocation of channels in such cities have not been determined.”

He added that AROI had indicated another two concerns in respect of calculation of NOTMF by the Ministry. In the first case wherein example of Shimla is given by AROI, the methodology followed by MIB is in line with TRAI's recommendations of 20 February, 2014, as this has been explained in an example given in a table of TRAI's recommendations on "Migration of FM Radio Broadcasters from Phase-11 to Phase-III" dated 20 February, 2014.

Accordingly, the request of AROI for review of NOTMF on this ground is not acceptable, Gupta said.

The letter was in response to a letter from the Ministry of 8 October wherein the Ministry has sought TRAI's comments on the methodology used by I&B Ministry for calculation of NOTMF for existing cities and to confirm whether it has done calculation of city wise NOTMF in accordance with the TRAI's recommendations of 20 February, 2014.

Gupta said TRAI had examined the methodology of calculation of NOTMF followed by the Ministry for group X, Y and Z cities. “The methodology followed by the Ministry for calculation of NOTMF is in accordance with TRAI's recommendations dated 20 February, 2014.”

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