Sahara To Beam News From WorldSpace

New Delhi: | Updated: Sep 17 2003, 05:30am hrs
News is not allowed on private FM radio stations, but theres no such bar on satellite radio. So, while only All India Radio (AIR) stations are legally permitted to beam news in the FM band, Indian companies joining WorldSpace (the only satellite radio platform available in India) can broadcast news freely. WorldSpace radios India beam (AsiaStar) is received all over the country.

The reason for permitting news on satellite radio: WorldSpace channels are not uplinked from India, and therefore dont fall under any Indian guidelines. Taking advantage of the free-regime for satellite platform, Sahara is planning to start a news channel on WorldSpace by the end of this year. It will be the first private Indian player giving news on radio.

A WorldSpace official confirmed that a channel on this satellite platform can beam live news from India through a leased line, without any time delay. However, WorldSpace channels on AsiaStar are uplinked from Singapore. With its uplinking happening from outside India, there are no government guidelines for satellite radio.

News will be one of the four channels that Sahara is planning, according to group CEO (media and entertainment) Sushanto Roy. The other three will focus on Hindi entertainment, rural development and internal communication, and music for Mumbai Railways.

Interestingly, even as AIR has been in talks with the Railways for offering its channel through WorldSpace on Rajdhani and Shatabdi, with no results, Sahara has already got an in-principle nod to offer its satellite radio service to Mumbai Western and Mumbai Central Railways. Extending this service to trains such as Rajdhani and Shatabdi would be the next logical step, Mr Roy pointed out. Also, the company doesnt rule out entering terrestrial radio when government begins second phase of FM privatisation.

As for radio on FM band, recommendations are being firmed up by a high-level committee headed by Ficci secretary general Amit Mitra. The committee is not looking at satellite radio, as a panel member told eFE.

The government has asked the expert committee on FM radio to submit its report by September 30. Among other things, the panel is looking at the option of allowing news and foreign direct investment (FDI) in private FM. Currently, only up to 20 per cent foreign institutional investment (FII) is allowed in a private FM radio venture.

Once the report is submitted to the information and broadcasting ministry, it will be sent to the Union Cabinet for approval.