Sunday, July 03, 2005

Govt. plans common infrastructure for FM Radio in 9 cities

Chennai, July 3 (PTI): The Centre, which allowed 20 per cent Foreign DirectInvestment in private FM radio services, will create common infrastructurefor these channels in nine cities, including Chennai, Bangalore andHyderabad, a note prepared by the Information and Broadcasing Ministry said.A total of 48 FM channels would be available for bidding by the privatesector on the common infrastructure network created by the Government inthese nine cities, it said.The other cities where the common infrastructure would be created for FMchannels include Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Jaipur, Pune and Surat.In Chennai and Delhi, six channels each would be available for biddings onphase-II of private FM Radio Broadcasting, after earmarking a total of sevenchannels (Chennai-3 and Delhi-4) for IGNOU and other educationalinstitutions, it said.Hyderabad and Bangalore would have the highest number of channels availablefor bidding at seven each, while Kolkata and Mumbai would have five FM radiochannels each for bidding, it said.The Centre on Friday announced the second phase of private FM radiobroadcasting, replacing the existing licensing model with a revenue sharingregime.While five channels will be available for bidding in Jaipur, another fourwould be up for grabs in Surat. In Pune, the number of channels availablefor bidding is three.A total of 24 channels in these nine cities would be earmarked for IGNOU andother educational channels, it said.

Riding high on radio waves

AIR programme touches off a small revolution in rural pockets

Ranchi, July 1: Laxmi Oraon was tired of the daily struggle for water. Atthe crack of dawn, she and a bunch of women from her village would hit adusty 13-km trail that ended at a well in a place called Getalsud. The lonewell and the four handpumps in her block failed to quench the thirst of the15 villages that made up the Angada block.She recalled the numerous failed trips made by the village men to thedistrict's corridors of power in an attempt to get a new handpump forAngada. Then, someone suggested the Community Radio Programme (CRP), ahalf-an-hour programme on the AIR, aired every Sunday evening.As the request for help from the Angada residents crackled through the radiotwo weeks later on the community programme, an assistant engineer of thePHED department volunteered to support the pump project. Earlier this month,the pump was inaugurated amid much cheer from Laxmi and her villagefolk.Similar such requests on the radio programme have managed to get for theresidents of far-flung areas of the state what the administration could notgive.Coordinator of the programme at Angada block, Malya Bedia, says the radiohas made the villagers aware of the different developmental schemes meantfor the block. She also recalled how the radio was used to connect to themasses about the need to get children and, especially girls, educated."A play was staged themed on the importance of education and it was aired onthe AIR. The next thing we found was that many organisations were comingforward to build the schools," added Bedia.Explaining how the CRP was started with the aim of providing the villagersan opportunity to air their grievances, programme executive Devi Roy said:"The residents did not know who to talk about the problems. We just providedthem with a platform." The programme was a joint effort by the AIR, a localNGO called Manthan Yuva Sansthan and a Delhi-based NGO, Charka.Meena, a 12-year-old, is perhaps one of the best examples of the smallrevolution that has touched these rural backwaters. Six months ago, thebubbly child would spend the day finishing up household chores and learningto cook. "I go to school now. I like maths. My mother says it is important,"she says, enthusiasm written all over her small happy face.

Radio ga-ga - Revenue-sharing shift should do wonders for FM

Posted online: Saturday, July 02, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
The government's decision to allow existing players in FM to shift from theexisting licence fee regime to a revenue-sharing one is a welcome, thoughbelated, policy correction. It is bound to lend cheer to an industry thathas been struggling for almost five years within the confines of an absurdpolicy framework. Together with the other relaxations in the policy on FMradio - notably, inclusion of foreign direct investment within the overallforeign investment limit - the new policy should see a rekindling ofinterest in FM radio.About time, too. After the first flush of enthusiasm that saw a rush ofplayers bid unrealistically high licence fees when the sector was opened toprivate sector entry in 2000, interest in FM radio had all but disappeared.The reason was simple. Players discovered the returns were just notcommensurate to what they had bid. So, while the government got bids for 101of the 108 frequencies auctioned, and for an aggregate amount of Rs 425crore against the estimated amount of Rs 79.65 crore, the actual amountcollected was far less. Bidders for 64 frequencies defaulted, so only Rs158.8 crore could be collected from 37 frequencies.Worse was to follow. Even of these 37, as many as 13 did not operationalisetheir licences and opted, instead, to surrender them. A few players battledon, even as their losses mounted, in the hope that the government wouldaccede to their pleas to free them from their licence obligations and shiftto a revenue-sharing model. Their hopes have now been realised. Whileexisting players will be allowed to migrate to revenue-sharing, bids for thenext phase of FM will be based on the principle of revenue-sharing. Playersare understandably elated. The recent regulatory corrections should see moregrowth, more revenue and more employment across the country.The parallels with the telecom industry are striking. It was only when the initial licence fee regime (that led to mobile telephones being priced out ofthe reach of most) was replaced by a revenue-sharing model, that we saw aboom in mobile telephony. Hopefully, the same experience will now bereplicated in the FM space. But the government's job is not yet done. Itneeds to reconsider the ban on broadcast of news and current affairs. Theexperience with TV should be a good model to go by. There is no reason whywe should have a different set of rules for radio, as compared totelevision. Policy arbitrariness has no place in a globalising economy.

AIR Kolkata transmission hit

Kolkata, June. 30 (PTI): Train services and transmission from All IndiaRadio station were disrupted by widespread power cuts in the metropolistoday following a technical fault at a sub-station of West Bengal StateElectricity Board.Train services on all electrified sections remained suspended between 8.18am to 9.20 am because power supplies from five grids of WBSEB to EasternRailway's Sealdah Division failed, railway sources said.Large areas, including the posh satellite township of Salt Lake, wentwithout power when the 400-kv sub-station of the WBSEB at Jeerat, nearBarasat in North 24 Parganas district tripped, an SEB spokesman said.As a precautionary measure, five units of Bandel thermal power station wereshut down, he said.AIR transmission had stopped at 8.16 am and resumed more than an hour laterat 9.28 am, official sources said.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Govt allows FDI in private FM radio; says no to news

Friday July 1 2005 00:00 IST
NEW DELHI: Launching a major expansion programme for private FM radio services, the government allowed 20 per cent foreign direct investment in the sector on Thursday and decided on a revenue share regime against the existing licence fee structure to allow a total of 330 stations in 90 cities.
The Union Cabinet, which met here to thrash out the policy framework for the second phase of FM radio licensing, however, decided to continue the ban on news and current affairs.
"Time has come for revival of radio in the country and the government has planned a huge expansion of the private FM radio network which will lead to generation of employment and opportunities and encourage talent," Information and Broadcasting Minister S Jaipal Reddy told reporters here.
"Even as we have decided to allow FDI at the existing 20 per cent cap for FIIS, OCBs and NRIs, there will be no news permitted on private FM channels under the present regime," the Minister said.
The licence fee regime adopted in the first phase proved to be disastrous for the growth of FM radio sector where of the 108 frequencies put on bid, only 21 were operational, two of which have also given notice to close down.
Reddy said the operators will now have to shell four per cent of their revenue as annual licence fee, adding that existing operators will also be allowed to migrate to the new regime and there "would be no black-listing" of any player.
Bidding for the second phase will start in about a month's time, he said, observing that "the government has not looked at the revenue aspect at all" while framing the new policy. "The idea is to encourage expansion of radio in the private sector," he said.
Asked about broadcast of news and current affairs, he said, "We have not looked at this aspect at all... I am not saying no... Actually I have not taken a decision on this aspect as several issues have to be looked into before taking a view."
Reddy said in framing the new policy, the government had accepted most of the recommendations of the radio broadcast policy committee under the chairmanship of FICCI's Amit Mitra as well as that of broadcast regulator TRAI.
He said in the second phase, the cities would be divided into four broad categories -- A, B, C and D -- starting from the metros and flowing down to the smaller ones.
The number of operators in the a category (metros) will be restricted to about 10-11 players while in B cities it will be six, four in C and two in D towns.
"The new players will have to pay a one-time entry fee through close bidding process, and each successful bidder will pay as per his bid amount," Reddy said, explaining the manner in which the second phase licences will be awarded.
Existing operators will have to pay the average bid amount of new players.
"The government will not black-list any player on the basis of ongoing litigation in various courts... We will allow everyone to participate in the new bidding process," he added.
Observing that competition will be a key element under the new regime, Reddy said "no private radio can only run on film music. They have to generate their own content to survive."
Reddy said the government plans to set up a quasi-judicial regulatory authority to deal with disputes, pending which the ministry will have regulatory powers.

Centre to launch two new music channels

Chennai, June 29: The Centre will soon launch two new music channels, one for Hindustani Classical music and another for Carnatic Classical music, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Jaipal Reddy said today.
While one of the channels would be started from Lucknow, the other would be launched from Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu. Both these channels would be available on DD DTH platform, so that lovers of classical music could avail this music in digital quality for most of the time, he said.
Releasing 'Akashvani Sangeet' CDs and Cassettes of doyens of carnatic music, late M S Subbulakshmi, Alathur Brothers and 'Ariyakudi' Ramanuja Iyengar, at the music academy here tonight, he said the Doordarshan DTH now had space only for 33 channels and 17 more would soon be added when these two new music channels would be 'mounted'.
Stressing that All India Radio (AIR) would also focus on folk music, Reddy said 'we have decided to go in for huge expansion of FM radio in the private sector.
We will set up 330 AIR stations throughout the country in as many as 80 new cities, thus laying more focus on growth rather than on earning more revenue.
Reddy said the first phase of the private sector radio expansion did not succeed in full as lot of emphasis was laid on revenue earning rather than on growth. "Now, I am reversing this priority so that people will be able to enjoy more radio in general and more radio in the private sector".
In an obvious reference to the All India Radio losing out to private FM channels, he said all efforts would be made "within our powers to see that radio is revived."
Speaking about the proposed music channels he said: "The golden voice of M S Subbulakshmi, Alathur brothers and of others would be avaiable now to everyone", he said adding that music and peace were intertwined. "Where there is music, there will be peace".
Reddy said Doordarshan's DTH was the only 'free-to-air' DTH available in the world today. The unique feature of it DD DTH was that 'we are able to accommodate all the radio channels in it'. "We are also planning to release AIR folk music in digital quality. Our entire archives, the richest in the world today, had been digitalised by harnessing the latest technology".
The Prasar Bharati now had all the speech of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Rabindranath Tagore and all Prime Ministers and Presidents. "All these have been preserved in digital form. The problem with the Prasar Bharati is that we have lot of good things but do not know how to disseminate them".
Paying encomia to the music doyens whose CDs were released today, the minister said Government cannot remain 'indifferent' to the fate of arts. Governments should be eliminated from intervening or interfering in arts. The AIR had played glorious role in promotion and preservation of classic music.
Jaipal Reddy said historically the All India Radio in the country had rendered greater service, be it Hindustani music or Carnatic music.
"We have record of 10,000 hours of classical music. We have rare recordings of doyens of both the music".
Reddy handed over the first CD of Subbulakshmi to another maestro of Carnatic music, Balamurali Krishna, the CD of Alathur brothers to the Editor-in-Chief of 'The Hindu', N Ram and the CD of Ramanujam Iyengar to Gauri Ramnarayan, a music critic. (Agencies)
Published: Wednesday, June 29, 2005