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Friday, July 8, 2011

Privatizing Radio

Government's Green Signal to 

Privatising Radio forums

Ratheesh Kaliyadan

The government of India cleared guidelines of the FM Radio Phase III expansion on July 07, 2011. It enables revenue generation of Rs 1,733 crore from the auction of license for services in 227 cities in the country. The meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cleared a proposal by the ministry of information and broadcasting for the auction of new licenses of FM channels. 
"New licenses will be given through e-auction that will be conducted by an independent expert agency," Information &Broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said in a briefing after the cabinet meeting in New Delhi.
                                                                                                                                           The Union cabinet also decided to raise the foreign investment (foreign direct investment and foreign institutional investment) limit in FM business to 26% from 20%. The new regime - Policy Guidelines on Expansion of FM radio broadcasting services through private agencies (Phase-Ill ) - will extend FM radio services to about 227 new cities and offer 839 new FM radio channels in 294 cities. 
The govt’s eye eagerly concentrates on the big revenue out of the auction. The Phase I and Phase II policies have resulted in a total revenue accrual of about Rs 1,733 crore up to May 31, 2011 by way of one time entry fee, migration fee and annual fee among others.

Actually the new decision will enhance the private sector to penetrate their ideals in radio world with an increased confidence. Media critics and academicians keep mum against the decision. At the same time corporate and media giants are in a happy mood. They made their expressions joyfully. They are ready to exploit the opportunity to expand business network. ENIL chief executive officer Prashant Panday said the third phase of expansion would make FM a pan-India medium as it would take radio to small towns. "For six years, there has been no expansion. This policy is important for future growth," he said. ENIL owns Radio Mirchi, India's leading FM radio channel.

Just after the cabinet decision and media giants’ responses, the stock market also became alert to buy and sell shares of these corporate bodies. ENIL's scrip rose 5.75%, closing at. 278.75 On BSE on Thursday while Reliance Broadcast Network was up 7.09% and closed at. 86.10. The rise raises a question: who is the beneficiaries of the cabinet decision? Is it the government or the media corporate? The decision is a best example for the UPA government’s empathy towards privatization and foreign investment.

The new decision will also allow private radio channels to broadcast news of All India Radio. The decision is not made much attention among the media activists. Mainstream media provided a little space for the ‘hot’ news. No media highlighted the issue. The decision appeared in a single line in the midst of the celebrated 1,733 crore story. This is a crucial and important decision which will invite long lasting impact. The current decision is to “allowed to carry news items from All India Radio.” Earlier, they had not been allowed. This is a clear finger point to the coming decisions. Within a short period, government will allow private FM channels to gather news and broadcast it. Government will decide to make changes to the existing rules and regulations for the same as in the case of television channels. Such a decision will harmfully affect the activities of All India Radio. After the decision total monopoly of news transmission will become the ‘Right’ of private corporate media agencies.

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