Listeners need more options on FM radio: Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore


29 Nov 2012
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Listeners need more options on FM radio: Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore

About 45% of India is covered by FM, and in about two years’ time, the intention is to cover about 60-65%, says minister of state for I&B Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore

[size=medium]As the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry prepares for the upcoming auction of 266 private FM radio frequencies in 92 cities, several big FM radio operators have refrained from participation. In a list of participants released last month, seven of the 14 potential bidders are newcomers.

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, minister of state for I&B, believes that it is good to have debutants to increase competition. In an interview, Rathore talks about the FM auction, direct-to-home (DTH) licensing norms, public broadcaster Prasar Bharati and paid news. Edited excerpts:

Why has the second batch of Phase 3 radio auctions elicited a poor response from leading FM players?

It all depends on their strategy and the availability of funds with them. We have helped them in a manner by enhancing the FDI limits from 26% to 49%. We also want newer companies to come in to have more competition. A lot of these big companies are present in metro cities and a lot of them have even gone in some of the smaller cities. But I think competition will become broad-based when newer companies also come in. At present, for this auction, 14 applications have come in—of which seven are newcomers, which is good.

Have you decided on a date?
[size=medium]The consultation process is going on. We also want all the stakeholders to be comfortable with the process and the terms and conditions. The stakeholders’ meetings are going on and we don’t want to hurry.[/size]

[size=medium][size=medium]You have spoken about the centre’s plans to have at least three FM radio stations in all towns with a population of more than 100,000. What is the timeline for this?

Presently, about 45% of the country is covered by FM. In about two years’ time, the intention is to cover about 60-65%. We have already started the Phase 3 policy. We are taking the FM stations to a large number of cities—mostly to places where FM is not there. In Phase 3, the first auction has already taken place. The second auction will take place soon. Perhaps, we are looking at about 92 cities, of which there are a few FM channels which didn’t find a buyer earlier and a lot of them are the new ones.[/size]

[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]Has the I&B ministry accepted the recommendations submitted by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on DTH licensing, including increasing the validity period of the licence and reducing the annual fee?

Yes. We want to be helpful in expansion, firstly in the digitization of the cable. The cable services which are reaching every home... a large portion of it is still analog. We want it to get digitized. We have already set the limits and we are following the deadlines. In a consultative process which we had with the DTH operators, we felt that they would be forthcoming in investing their profits into making this digitization process a success. We are in agreement with Trai recommendations, which include reducing the licence fee. We are bringing it down from 10% of the gross revenue to 8% of adjusted gross revenue. I don’t think it has been finalized, but we are going by the recommendations.[/size]

[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]Complete article -[/size][/size][/size]
[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]Listeners need more options on FM radio: Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore - Livemint[/size][/size][/size]
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