Private FM radio channels left out of economic package send SOS message to centre

The private FM Radio sector left out of the Centre’s Rs 20 lakh crore economic package has sent an SOS message to Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar to remind the government about the crisis being faced by the sector.

The Association of Radio Operators for India, an industry body of private FM channels, told the government that the sector had been looking at the government with hope to help the sector survive.

“We have watched closely with hope the economic packages announced by the Finance Minister over the past week. However, we are deeply pained to note that none of these measures has any effect whatsoever on the private FM Radio sector,” AROI president Anurradha Prasad said in a letter to the Union I&B minister on Tuesday.

In her letter, Anurradha Prasad said the only measure that could have some effect on smaller groups operating FM radio would have been extra credit facility for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).

“Only 31 out of 371 stations are MSME, while 340 do not fall into the MSME segment,” she said.

But these 31 radio stations also cannot not avail the benefit since they have no revenue forecasts to repay the loans given their heavy dependence on government advertising that has dried up over the last one year.

The AROI letter underlined that a Rs 300 crore relief package “needed to keep private FM radio channels alive” would be in national interest given that these radio companies would, over the next 12 years or so, end up paying Rs 15,000 crore to the government through migration, licence fees, rentals, GST etc.

In its earlier requests to the government, the association had pointed that the radio industry was going through a tough phase with advertising revenue shrinking over the past year with a de-growth of 20%. This revenue stream had reduced further by over 80 percent after India moved into the Covid-19 induced lockdown in March this year.

It had then requested a four-point assistance package that included a one-year waiver on licence fees and charges, restoration of government advertising on radio and clearing the long-pending payments from the government’s Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity.

—Hindustan Times

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