| 01 Oct 2023
FM Phase III e-auctions will begin shortly: Uday Kumar Varma

NEW DELHI: The e-auction for the third phase of FM Radio is expected to take off ‘as soon as possible’ with all administrative and other hurdles cleared, according to Information and Broadcasting Ministry secretary Uday Kumar Varma.

Varma, who is retiring at the end of this month, justified an ascending e-auction on the ground of not merely transparency but also because it gave any bidder the right to come back in another round after failing to make a bid in the first round.

He said ‘everything is now in place’ for the auction to begin, and the e-auction process which had been refined will ensure that the process is speedy and transparent. 

E-auctions will increase the number of Private FM Radio Channels from the present 245 to around 839 covering another 227 cities having population of over 100,000.  Under Phase-II currently in existence, 245 FM channels are operational covering 86 cities, each with a population of over 300,000 or more.

In an interview relating to his tenure in the Ministry, Varma told that the Ministry was firm that the Broadcast Audience Research Council must begin its work by March 2014 and he had personally held three meetings on the last six months in this connection.

Varma had earlier served as Additional Secretary and Special Secretary in this Ministry from December 2007 for two years, and come back as Secretary in October 2011.

Answering a question, he said that the Department of Telecom had set up a committee to study the issue of convergence in view of the converging technologies, and the I&B Ministry had nominated the Joint Secretary (Broadcasting) on behalf of the Ministry. However, no meeting had taken place so far, he noted, recalling that the issue of convergence had in fact been taken up by a Group of Ministers headed by the then Finance Minister when the National Democratic Alliance was in power but the discussions had not led to anything substantial despite talk at that time of a Convergence Bill and a Convergence Commission.

But he said this would need intense discussions since it was an issue involving several Ministries and Departments.

Varma expressed satisfaction that he had been able to expedite digitization of the cable television sector, noting that the primary achievement had been the fact that the consumer had accepted the change and opted for digital set top boxes.

In fact, Varma said he was particularly happy at the way the Ministry had been able to use social media to advantage. He said the Facebook page of the Ministry had more than 300,000 followers while the YouTube and Twitter pages were also attracting a lot of attention. Major events like the opening and closing of the last International Film Festival of India had been streamed live on YouTube.

He also said he was happy that the revival package for Prasar Bharati had been approved and its implementation had begun as this would lead to greater innovation in programming for the public service broadcaster, particularly since its previous arrears had been wiped and the government had taken over the payment of salaries.

Answering a question, he said that emerging technologies like 3G and 4G had led to mobile TV being able to operate without spectrum problems since it was no longer a standalone venture.