FM Licence: Waiting Game Is On

New Delhi | Updated: Apr 30 2004, 05:30am hrs
Even on the last date for payment of annual licence fee, private FM radio operators failed to show up. The total licence fee on hold, across metros, is over Rs 100 crore. Officials in the information and broadcasting ministry on Thursday said they would wait for a direction from the finance ministry, before encashing the defaulters bank guarantee. Also, the FM players, including Entertainment Network India Ltd, Radio Today, Music Broadcast Private Ltd and Radio Mid-Day, have a grace period of one week for paying the fee, even as April 29 was the deadline.

According to sources in the government, there are indications that the finance ministry may refer the FM radio matter back to the I&B ministry for further clarifications.

A few days ago, I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had written to finance minister Jaswant Singh, to seek his guidance on the issue. However, Mr Singh hasnt spelt out a decision yet.

Although an extension of deadline for payment of fees could be interpreted as a favour during the ongoing polls, the Election Commission hasnt taken up the issue yet. EC officials were not available for comment.

FM radio players have been seeking an extension for the payment of licence fee after the Amit Mitra Committee came up with fresh recommendations for the sector. These recommendations, if accepted, would make the rules softer for the industry.

Meanwhile, the Mumbai High Court on Wednesday had refused to grant an injunction to Entertainment Network India Ltd, which runs Radio Mirchi. ENIL had sought an injunction against the government from encashing its bank guarantee. The court is learnt to have told the government that it can encash the bank guarantee of ENIL if it fails to pay up by the due date, but cannot cancel the licence. The next hearing of the case is on May 6.

Radio Today is also preparing to move court, according to company officials.