At present Becil and the private FM licencees are in talks to clear doubts about the MoU. But an official with an FM company said that things were moving in a positive direction and indicated that there were no hitches. He added that MoU papers had been sent to lawyers for processing.
It may be recalled that French infrastructure company TDF, which was nearly appointed as the integrator for the radio project, walked out of the venture at an advanced stage over disagreements regarding the MoU clauses. But now the parties involved in the venture feel that there isn’t much room for a repeat of the TDF experience as time is running out.
According to Becil CMD KRP Verma, it will take the company 26 weeks to complete the integration project for the FM licencees in three cities. Even if Becil starts work on August 5, the operations will come into being only by mid-March 2003, way beyond August 29, 2002 — the last date set for paying the licence fee for the three metros.
Meanwhile, whether private FM licencees in the three cities would go in for an interim arrangement, before setting up permanent operations, is still an unanswered question. Players (FM broadcasters) are not keen on airing their views on an interim setup at this stage. They say: “The government has to take a call on the issue.” But the broadcasters’ plea is that since Mumbai players have already begun operations, licencees in the other metros should also be allowed to set up their business on an interim basis, till they go in for a common tower. Although government officials have indicated that permission for the interim setup looks unlikely for Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai players, there’s no formal decision on the issue yet.
Private FM players including the Mid-Day group, Radio Today of the Living Media group, Music Broadcast (Star-Ispat venture) and Entertainment Network of the Bennett Coleman group, are expected to sign on with Becil on August 1.
As per government norms, FM licencees must co-locate their transmitters on the All India Radio (AIR) towers in the three metros, with the help of an integrator. Mumbai FM licencees have already begun separate operations on an interim basis because AIR could not offer its tower in the city for co-location.