| 26 May 2022
Muthoot permitted to apply for Phase III migration once dues to Prasar Bharati and BECIL are cleared

NEW DELHI: Muthoot Broadcasting Pvt Ltd which wants to migrate from FM Phase II to Phase III in Chennai has been told by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Arbitration Tribunal (TDSAT) that it could do so if it clears its dues to Prasar Bharati and the Broadcasting Engineering Consultants (Indian) Ltd before 9 March.

The Government had earlier fixed 9 March as the last date for applications for those who wish to migrate from the FM Phase II to the Phase III regime.

Muthoot Counsel Pratibha Singh was directed to visit Prasar Bharati and to work out the exact liability after she informed TDSAT in an interim application that her clients were prepared to clear the liabilities subject to seeking remedies available in law.

In a judgment earlier in the day yesterday, TDSAT Chairman Aftab Alam and member Kuldip Singh said that Muthoot was entitled to an adjustment for the rent paid by it for the regular set up from 9 November 2007 till 2 February 2009 when the site was successfully commissioned and directed Prasar Bharati to adjust this amount against the rent payable.

The Tribunal held that the open space and tower are linked facilities and part of the licensed infrastructure whose purpose is the transmission of FM signals. They cannot be viewed in isolation and, therefore Muthoot was liable to pay rent for the interim set up till the same was completely vacated on 23 June 2009.

This was in response to the submission by Muthoot that though the open space at interim set up was vacated on 2 February 2009 and the Tower on 23 June 2009, it has been wrongly charged for both at the interim set up till 23 June 2009.

However, Information and Broadcasting Ministry counsel submitted that the equipment and cables of Muthoot were lying at the interim set up and even the open space was not fully vacated.

Muthoot had successfully bid in the Chennai city FM tender, and was accordingly allotted spectrum in the band 104.8MHz. It entered into a Grant of Permission Agreement (GOPA) with the Ministry to operate an FM station in Chennai on 5 January 2007. It then set up an FM radio station in Chennai popularly known as ‘Chennai Live @ 104.8 FM’.

In terms of the tender document of the Ministry for FM Radio Broadcasting Phase II through private agencies, it was mandatory for all Phase II operators to co-locate the transmission facilities in all the 91 cities with that of Prasar Bharati. While in 84 cities these were to be co-located with existing Doordarshan/All India Radio transmission towers, new towers were to be constructed by the Ministry in seven cities, including Chennai through BECIL which was also to act as system integrator for providing the common transmission infrastructure (CTI).

In the seven cities where new towers were required to be constructed, successful bidders were permitted to operationalise their channels on an individual basis for a period of two years or till the co-location facility was commissioned, whichever was later, at the end of which they were required to shift their operations to the new facilities.