Sunday, January 08, 2006

BBC arm wins seven FM radio licences in India

By Sumeet Chatterjee
BBC WORLDWIDE, the broadcaster's commercial arm, acquired FM radio licences covering seven of India's biggest cities yesterday in the unit's first move into overseas markets. BBC and its local partner, Mid-Day Multimedia, won licences to operate FM radio services in Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, Madras, Calcutta, Ahmedabad and Pune. The successful bids came just days after the BBC announced that it had bought a 20 per cent stake in Radio Mid-Day West, a subsidiary of Mid-Day Multimedia, the Bombay-listed media group. India's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting began the auction of licences covering the country's 13 largest cities yesterday. As many as 84 companies have been cleared to participate in bidding for a total of 338 new radio licences in 91 cities. The BBC had hoped to scoop nine licences in the first round of bidding. However, Monisha Shah, BBC Worldwide's director of emerging territories, said that she was delighted with the results: "Given the significant size and audience reach of these licences, our radio venture has now created the substantial national presence we were aiming for." Ms Shah added that the venture would refine its bidding strategy before the next round in the auction. The auction ends next month. Tariq Ansari, managing director of Mid-Day Multimedia, said that Radio Mid-Day West aimed to use the content, expertise and technology of BBC Worldwide to emerge as one of the leading private radio stations in the second-most populous country after China. FM radio is a fledgeling industry in India and has enormous growth potential. According to analysts, advertisers spent about $40 million with commercial broadcasters in India in 2003 - less than 2 per cent of total advertisement spend. However, radio revenues are expected to more than triple to $150 million by 2008. The Indian radio network covers 97 per cent of the country's population of more than a billion through 24 languages and 146 dialects. Besides BBC Worldwide, a host of leading Indian media houses and international companies, including Britain's Virgin Radio and the Malaysian pay-TV company Astro All Asia, are vying for licences as part of the Government's newly unveiled liberalised investment guidelines. Virgin Radio has tied up with HT Music, part of the HT Media group that publishes the Hindustan Times, India's second-biggest selling daily, to enter the market. The British company has not disclosed financial details of the partnership. However, in a statement yesterday Virgin Radio said that Virgin Radio Asia, a subsidiary, confirmed that it would provide radio expertise, knowhow and advice to Hindustan Times Group, which has successfully bid for FM radio licences in Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore and Calcutta. The company has entered into similar radio ventures in Thailand and with Oui FM in Paris. Under the Indian Government's liberalised norms for ownership rules in the media industry, foreign investors can hold a maximum 20 per cent stake in an FM radio station.,,16614-1974177,00.html

FM Radio set for massive expansion

NEW DELHI, JAN 8 (PTI)The second phase of licensing for private FM radio has struck the right note with aggressive bidding by companies, promising over Rs 500 crore to the government in just the first round and a whole new world of variety in entertainment for the public.The government, which on Friday put on block 64 of the 338 frequencies it plans to sell in this phase, was in for a pleasant surprise as many of the players bid ambitiously for capturing airwaves in 13 top cities of the country, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata.And what's more, the aggressive bidding promises a good response to the four remaining rounds of bidding left, which will see the government selling stations in places like Agra, Bhopal, Jamshedpur, Varanasi, Ajmer, Aligarh, Chandigarh, Jammu, Patiala, Jodhpur, Shimla, Panaji, Kohima and Hissar.Not only did incumbents like Entertainment Network, Music Broadcast Pvt Ltd (MBPL) and Radio Mid-Day ensure entry into newer cities in this round, new ones like Anil Ambani-backed Adlabs and HT Music and Entertainment also jumped in, hoping to have a sizeable presence in the radio industry believed by many to be expanding on the lines of the telecom revolution.But what may come as a concern to some is the fact that many players bid as much as 2-3 times more than what was bid for the same cities in the first phase of licensing.However, industry players and experts strike down this concern and say the revenue share regime on a ten-year license, in contrast to the annual license fee structure in the first phase which proved disastrous for the government as well as the companies, will ensure that all stay afloat."It is a win-win deal for all -- the government, broadcasters, public as well as advertisers," Sunil Kumar, who runs a radio consultancy firm Big River Radio, told PTI. Kumar's company conducted a study before the start of the second round and has forecasted that government is likely to collect Rs 1,350 crore as One Time Entry Fee for the licenses for all 338 FM radio stations it plans to sell in 91 cities.Asked whether he felt the bidders engaged in overbidding following the optimism in the new regulatory set-up, he said this was not the case. "I feel a majority of them bid as per a business plan. And many of the players like Rajasthan Patrika had regional markets to protect," he said.Kumar said the presence of a large number of players within the same city would mean more choice for the customers and also emergence of niche programming.The optimism is difficult to miss going by the way incumbents like ENIL, which runs services under 'Radio Mirchi' brand, went about. The Times Group company, which runs FM services in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune and Indore, is among the successful bidders in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Kanpur, Nagpur and Surat."We are on a great high and have bid after 12-14 months of research," Radio Mirchi CEO A P Parigi said.Asked whether the aggressive bidding could again lead to losses for companies, especially new entrants, he said: "The bidding looks rational. We hope the players have submitted them (bids) after studying the industry dynamics well.On the other hand, MBPL which runs services under 'Radio City' brand in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Lucknow, has won seven more licences in Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Nagpur, Pune and Surat. "I am thrilled with the results of the bidding process. We are already established as a long-term consistent player in four cities that we operate in. This will help us further consolidate our position as the leaders in the radio space in India," Radio City CEO Apurva Purohit said.Radio Mid-Day, in which BBC recently purchased a stake, was among the top bidders for Delhi (Rs 31.40 crore), Chennai (Rs 12.20 crore), Kolkata (Rs 3.21 crore), Ahmedabad (Rs 5.12 crore), Bangalore (Rs 15.42 crore) and Pune (5.4 c rore).Among the new players, who in no way can be dismissed as insignificant given their deep pockets and wide experience, HT Music and Entertainment is all set to hit the airwaves in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore while Adlabs in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad Kanpur and Bangalore.Adlabs' Rajesh Sawhney said the high bids were not much of a concern. "We were solely guided by our business plans," he pointed out.Other players who are on way to hit the air waves include the Bhaskar Group, Muthoot Finance, Kal Radio, Rajasthan Patrika and India Today group's Radio Today, which recently sold its 'Red FM' brand to a consortium that included NDTV.According to Big River Radio's Kumar, radio advertising is currently worth Rs 240 crore, which is projected to grow to a whopping Rs 1,300 crore over the next 2-3 years."In fact, advertising spend on radio is currently below two per cent of the total spend while globally the average is about 6-8 per cent," he adds.

Radio can make waves

The aim of every community radio should be to create awareness among local people in various fields, Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor of Tamil Nadu and Chancellor of Anna University, said while inaugurating the week-long international workshop for community radio station managers at Anna University.Elaborating on the role of community radios in developing the community surrounding it, the Governor said they empower the people and nurture local knowledge and are committed to human rights, values, social justice and it is a must for socio-economic development.Community radios can make a strategic contribution to the development of the community. The right of common citizens to express the kind of society they want to live in is a fundamental part of an alternative vision of development. This vision could be attained by the democratic participation enabled by the community radio, he said.Strengthening rights of freedom of information and freedom of expression would lead to effective interaction and free discussion. Community radios can play a vital role in uplifting the status of women in society, so that they can become opinion-makers, Barnala said.Turning his attention to Anna University, he pointed out that the university should work out the modalities for forming women self-help groups in the areas covered by their FM. They should identify the social problems of villages, produce programmes to educate people on health, cleanliness and protecting environments. The youth in villages should be enlightened on the latest developments in science and technology and career programmes.Reiterating the fact that community radios can play a major role in education, Barnala also said the role of Anna FM as a home tutor in teaching lessons for the schoolchildren and clarifying their doubts would be of a great assistance to poor and needy students.He also urged Anna University to come forward with plans to increase the coverage range of Anna FM so that more and more people in the local villages benefited from this effort.Dr E Balagurusamy, Vice-Chancellor, Anna University, said community radios have a major role to play in the development of society and pointed out that radio was the only medium which could reach the rural masses, because many villages in India were not accessible; and these villages may not have electricity facility and the villagers use radio as a medium for knowing what is happening in the outside world.Stating the reason for Anna University starting a campus community radio, the Vice-Chancellor said the institution could bridge the gap between technology and people.Tarja Virtanen, advisor for communication and information, Asia-Pacific region, UNESCO, said for the past two decades, many community radios were started in various parts of the world owing to the reduction of cost of radio transmitters and other equipment.David H. Walker, education specialist (education technologist), Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver, Canada, stated that in the near future every village in the world would have one community radio station. Dr Usha Vyasulu Reddi, director, Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA), New Delhi, said the workshop would analyse all aspects of community radio and various experts would share their experiences.Prof K Jayaraman, Registrar, Anna University, said the university was the first to get the licence to start a campus community radio in the country, 10 months ago.N Arun Kumar

Know your RTI through AIR Pune

Express News Service Pune, January 6: WANT to know about the Right to Information (RTI) Act? All you have to do is to tune in to the programme Tila Tila Daar Ughad (Open Sesame), to be broadcastby All India Radio (AIR), Pune at 7.16 am on Saturdays. AIR and Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA) have tied up to produce a 52-episode programme, which will be broadcast to all districts in the State for a period of one year. Probably the first of its kind in the country, the first episode will be aired this Saturday. The programme deals with various aspects of RTI in each episode. Divided into four parts, each episode will have sections titled Paul Khuna - background, Aamne Saamne - face to face, Magowa - follow-up and Prashna Mantale - questions and answers. The Paul Khuna section will deal with the background of the RTI Act and include the history of similar legislation and practices during the Greek civilisation and Sweden in the 7th century. In the Aamne Saamne part, interviews of common people and their reactions to the RTI Act and functioning of government offices will be broadcast. Interviews of RTI experts and information activists as well as people involved in the formulation of the Act will also find a place in this section. In the Magowa section of the programme, instances of common people using the Act to retrieve information will be shared with the listeners as well as action taken against government officers who were not able to give the requisite information sought through the RTI Act. The episodes will conclude with a question-answer section, where listeners can send their queries regarding the act to Tila Tila Daar Ughad, station director, All India Radio, Pune.

All India Radio fails to bag radio rights for Indo-Pak series

(Friday, Jan 06, 2006 - 06:00 am) Team
The All India Radio has failed to bag the radio rights for the India-Pakistan series. AIR had bagged the radio rights for the 2003 friendship series between India and Pakistan from Ten Sports. Last year, Ten Sports sold the rights to another Dubai-based company, ARY broadcasters, a company with 11 channels that has rights for cricket matches in Pakistan and the Middle East. Now, ARY has refused to sell the rights to AIR at the price offered. AIR is willing to pay $40,000 for the entire series, the amount it paid Ten Sports in 2003. ARY feels the price is too low and has demanded $2.5 lakh for the entire series. Their contention is that AIR earned $5 lakh from the last series and, therefore, the amount they're quoting is reasonable. AIR, on the other hand, is refusing to go any higher, justifying its quotation by saying it will have to bear the entire production cost and that the hype this time isn't as high.