FM channels may soon get to air AIR news bulletins
Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati will soon set up a joint committee with private radio stations to figure out how much it can charge FM channels for broadcasting news aired by All India Radio (AIR).
FM radios are not permitted to produce and air news bulletins. Prasar Bharati, of which AIR is the radio broadcast arm, wants FM stations to be allowed to only replay the news that is aired on AIR, and wants these radio stations to pay for the content.
A ministry of information and broadcasting official aware of the developments said that the decision to set up the panel comes in the wake of directions from the MIB to speed up the process that has been hanging fire.
“The panel will have representation from private radio service providers and Prasar Bharati and will come up with a mutually agreeable formula on pricing,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
While FM stations have been petitioning the MIB to allow them to broadcast news, the government has been circumspect, citing security concerns. In the past, it told SC and Parliament that FM channels were barred from airing their own news bulletins in the absence of a monitoring system to oversee content.
“The government has turned down the request by FM stations to repackage the news aired on AIR; it wants the broadcasts to be replayed in their original format, even though they don’t gel with the production of other shows. It also insists on levying a fee, which FM channels fear could be exorbitant,” a functionary of the Association of Radio Operators for India said on condition of anonymity.
After the unveiling of the guidelines for the third phase of FM auctions, the government came around to the suggestion that private radios be allowed to carry AIR news content verbatim as it would expand the audience for AIR news. The stations wanted to do this at no cost.
A senior Prasar Bharati official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “AIR spends a lot of money on production and news gathering, why should they be giving out their content free? AIR also has fiscal targets to meet and if it does not charge for its content, it will lose out on revenue. Most listeners will shift to FM stations and the sponsorship for AIR bulletins and news magazines will dry up.”
The official cited above said the fees charged would be “minimal”. The Prasar Bharti official said a rate card would be drawn up for channels based on the frequency of broadcast and the content and added, “If a channel replays the bulletins at repeated intervals and uses news features as well, they will have to pay more.”
Harshad Jain, chief executive of Fever FM, an arm of HT Media Ltd, said the broadcast of news on radio would be a positive development. “Radio’s ability to transmit news is far better than other traditional media platforms. We will need to figure out a new monetisation strategy for this content,” he added. HT Media also owns Radio Nasha, another Hindi radio channel, besides Fever FM.
“The bulletins may not go with the style, texture, format or the overall tone of the other content categories aired on private radio stations. That could be a possible flip side,” said Neeraj Saraswat, national head (sales and marketing) at Fever 104.