In a breather to Sun TV Networks, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday permitted the Kalanithi Maran-led channel to participate in Phase III of the mock FM e-auction. While the actual auction of 135 private FM channels in 69 existing cities in the third phase is scheduled to start from July 27, the government conducted the mock auction on Wednesday.
A bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva, while seeking a reply from the information and broadcasting ministry, allowed Digital Radio Broadcasting Ltd (DRBL), which runs Red FM, to participate in the mock auction that was scheduled for Wednesday. Sun TV had challenged the government’s decision to ban it from participating in Phase III of FM auctions due to the lack of security clearance.
However, the central government’s counsel, Sanjiv Narula, told the court that the ministry was not in favour of deferring the auction as the entire process takes two-three months and everything has been lined up. He further said that the government had extended the Stage II licences till September this year only after which the channels would have to migrate to Stage III.
Narula also said that the government is looking into who is controlling the company and where it gets its funds from, for which it was necessary to look into the shareholding. The government said that it is important to ensure that money in auctions is not tainted money. The government also told the court that former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran was a stake holder in the company till 2010.
Meanwhile, Red FM, in its press release, said: “We have always maintained that our business is a professionally managed entity and it’s unfair to penalise a well-run, successful business and its employees. We also strongly believe that not allowing us to participate the Phase III auctions is an attack on media freedom.”
The HC bench was of the view that if the government wanted to look into shareholding, it should have said so in the tender document. “It should have been spelt out in black and white,” it said. The government’s submissions came in response to the HC’s query on Tuesday asking whether it was willing to defer the auction process so that the matter could be heard properly.