FM Radio Deadline Sees Mid-Day Out Of Delhi, Chennai

New Delhi: | Updated: Aug 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
Just when the deadline for paying the first years licence fee for private FM radio in Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai drew to a close on August 29, one player dropped out of the game, and some others failed to pay up. While Mid-Day Multimedia group announced on Thursday that its not interested in the Delhi and Chennai FM circles due to uneconomical licencing structure and the delay in setting up the joint infrastructure, Millennium Broadcasting was among those which didnt meet the payment deadline.

The government, however, took a lenient view. A senior official told eFE that a decision to forfeit the bank guarantee in the case of defaulters, would not be taken before Monday (September 2). Reason: Thats the next working day after the deadline. So, for all practical purposes, the government has extended the deadline for paying the licence fee by at least three days! The expected revenue from the licence fee (including any forfeiture of bank guarantee) is around Rs 45 crore from 14 licencees.

For now, Mid-Day has decided to pursue its radio business in Mumbai only, but it might change its strategy later on, Mid-Day has pointed out. Although Music Broadcast Private Ltd (MBPL) of the Ispat group, for which Star provides content and marketing inputs, had shown interest in the Chennai circle, it found the going tough in that direction. A senior official of MBPL told eFE that the company had explored the possibility of buying out a licence from another player, indicating that Mid-Day was an option. But since there werent positive feelers from the government, MBPL is not thinking on those lines currently.

With Mid-Days exit from Chennai and Delhi (it hadnt bid for Kolkata), only 11 licencees are left in the fray for one or more of the three metros Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. These players include Radio Today (Living Media), Entertainment Network (Bennett Coleman), Music Broadcast Private Ltd (Star-Ispat venture), Millennium and Sun.