In a response to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s request to relook at certain recommendations, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has reiterated its stance on “Reserve Price for Auction of FM Radio Channels” across 283 cities in the country under Phase 3 of FM expansion policy saying that the auction should be done by delinking the channels from technology. With regard to this recommendation, the Ministry had earlier informed TRAI that after conducting field experiments of ITU recommended Digital Radio Standards in VHF band II and III, Prasar Bharati had suggested to conduct a pilot project consisting of both DRM and HD Radio technologies to further evaluate them and also ascertain their acceptance by broadcasters and listeners including availability and speed of development of affordable receivers. In view of more experimental studies to be conducted, the recommendation may not be acceptable at present.
Reiterating its position, TRAI said: “As far as the recommendation related auction of remaining channels of Phase-III should be done by delinking them from technology is concerned, for facilitating smooth transition from analog to digital radio broadcasting, radio broadcasters may be permitted to use any technology (analog or digital) for radio broadcasting on the frequency allocated to them through auction in the future, based on their business plan.” “A service provider has the commercial interest and will be the best judge to decide on the most suitable technology. Any restrictions on the choice of technology will only impair the development. Broadcasters should be permitted to use any technology (analog or digital or both) for radio broadcasting on the frequency allocated to them through auction in future. In case radio broadcasters opt for digital technology, they should be permitted to broadcast more than one channel subject to technical feasibility on a single frequency allocated to them.” The Ministry had also asked how was the impact of Covid19 on radio industry likely to show in the bidding during the ensuing Batch III of FM Phase III auction. TRAI responded that it can only be gauged once the auctions are conducted by the Government. TRAI also observed that the FM Radio sector did see a dip in revenues during the Covid period, but it crossed the pre-pandemic level in December 2021. Radio Info