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Govt cautious on FM radio phase III rollout

Our Bureau,

New Delhi , Nov. 13

FM radio's phase III expansion is not likely to take off until the new radio channels that earned licences under phase II bidding start beaming programmes and turn in their balance sheets.

"We are waiting for the results of phase-II. Let's learn the lessons, and tweak the policy, if we have, to before we roll out phase III of FM Radio," said Mr S.K. Arora, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Till then, even those frequency bands that had not found any takers are not likely to be made available for re-bidding.

Dynamic growth

Although the industry boasts of a dynamic growth, with the number of FM radio stations expected to grow from 20 to 270 once the phase II allotments go on air, the Government prefers to be cautious. It points out that not so long ago, it was an industry on the verge of collapse, and, going forward, will have to vie for audience attention in the face of an increasing number of television channels.

"The media in India has been used to a hands-off approach by the Government. But, of late, the media is no longer only about the constitutional right to freedom of speech but is also about commerce and industry. And that's why when it comes to policymaking, regulations are not in conflict to freedom of speech, but to allow for a stable regime in the conduct of business and to facilitate its expansion," Mr Arora said at a seminar on the Indian Radio Industry organised by FICCI.

Dr Amit Mitra, Secretary-General, FICCI, who chaired the opening session of the seminar pointed out that while the entire media & entertainment industry was slated to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 19 per cent, the radio industry would see a CAGR of 32 per cent, taking the industry from Rs 240 crore in 2004, to an expected Rs 1,200 crore by 2010.

Community radio

The Government, on its part, seems the most enthusiastic about community radio. According to Mr Arora, the Government, which is waiting for the Cabinet to approve a further liberalisation of community radio, expects the number of these stations to grow from 60 to several hundred. "It is not the Government but primarily non-government agencies that will be leading this revolution," said Mr Arora.

On the occasion, FICCI also announced the launch of a FICCI Radio Forum, to be headed by Mr A.P. Parigi, CEO &MD, Entertainment Network India Ltd, to consolidate the radio industry and liaison with the Government on its behalf.

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