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AROI meet - I&B ministry pacifies radio operators

MUMBAI: Information and broadcast secretary Raghu Menon and additional secretary Uday Kumar Verma addressed the concerns of the radio industry at the first official Association of Radio operators (AROI) meet in Delhi last Thursday.

Menon started his speech on an optimistic note saying Government perceives radio as a powerful medium and will support it with all the strength it commands.

He stated that the government foresees immense potential in Phase III and the policy would be calibrated with corrections in Phase II policy. He took the operators through the proposal of Phase III subject to final approval by concerned authorities.

The government is proposing to provide incentives for extending reach in remote areas of north east and Jammu and Kashmir to make it more commercially viable, he said. “In the border areas, the government proposed to relax the payment of annual fees at a concessional rate of 50 per cent for initial three years of operation.”

He further added, “Networking will bring down the operational cost and also improve the viability in remote areas. Multiple ownership of channel will enable the required diversification in content and allow operators to have a revenue model catering to niche audiences.”

Absence of local based regulatory authority for monitoring of news and current affairs on radio as a reason for restricting news on radio was repeated by Menon. He noted that the FDI limit would be increased from the current 20 per cent to 26 per cent.

On the long festering music royalty issue, Menon proposed that apart from the judicial proceedings on the copyright board front, a long term amendment can be made in the copyright act by the human resource ministry, which governs the music industry. He offered that a meeting between both the industries conveyed by the MIB should help to sort the differences on music royalty and the ministry doesn’t want to plunder Phase III due to music royalty.

The radio industry put forth their grievances restricting the financial viability of the FM industry with Information and broadcasting additional secretary Uday Kumar Verma at the meet. Big FM CEO Tarun Katial reported that the 40 per cent import duty on equipments to set up infrastructure for radio stations is an impediment for the operators. He further said, “40 per cent import duty is a hurdle for smaller operators to invest in capital expenditure.

Radio stations in north east and Jammu and Kashmir face transmission issue because of geographical location and needs to be rectified. Further, in metros the height of towers is not sufficient and falls in shadow area due to which radio stations have weak transmission.”

Verma pacified the demand saying that the FM industry should submit an application with the ministry about reduction in the import duty before the onset of Phase 3. Regarding the monetisation in NE and J&K, Verma said, “For the initial four years, operators have to pay only half of their license fee and 50 per cent of rentals compared to the rest of the country.”

Radio Mantra director Rahul Gupta drew the attention of the players on extension of licensing regime from the current 10 years. Radio one MD Vineet Singh Hukmani strongly endorsed Gupta’s view stressing that the radio sector suffers from lack of investment due to the licensing term.

Raghu Menon provided some suggestions for betterment of the radio industry. “One of the objectives of FM radio is to promote local content and talent and this aspect has been sidelined with overdose of Bollywood music. Radio stations have been pointing out the restriction on multiple licenses as a reason for resorting to mass music but with multiple ownership, we hope local content will get the time and space it deserves.”

“The industry has developed radio audience measurement for measuring the size of the medium but in a fight of having the highest number of listeners, the radio operators should restrict from diluting the measurement and engage in misguiding the RAM figures by going the TRP way.”

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