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Proposed Met channel faces rough weather

Proposed Met channel faces rough weather

New Delhi: The India Meteorological Department’s, or IMD’s, plan to launch a weather channel in partnership with private broadcasters is finding the going rough and is unlikely to go ahead in its present form.

While deadlines for announcing the successful bidder have been extended several times, IMD scientists say none of the bidders will make the cut and the process may have to start again. As per the existing agreement detailed in the request for proposal—a document inviting bidders—the broadcaster would put in the money and manage the entity. IMD would provide content such as weather data for a fee.

As of Monday, two broadcasters—Star News India Pvt. Ltd and NDTV Ltd—were in the fray for setting up the channel, said an official familiar with the development who didn’t want to be identified. But an IMD scientist familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity: “There are significant deviations from the bid. Both bids are unclear on how the distribution will be handled and the licensing fee due to IMD."

Representatives of both bidders were unwilling to respond. But another executive at a broadcasting firm, who didn’t want his or his firm’s identity to be disclosed, said: “IMD’s expectations are unrealistic. Unless they put in money, too, it’s unlikely the deal will progress. The cost of running the channel, distribution costs, etc., would be about Rs30 crore annually. Unless IMD chips in, I don’t see how it will work."

The 24x7 weather channel, the first of its kind in India, was planned to be used for the approaching Commonwealth Games in the city.

“The weather channel will provide round the clock service during the games and possibly be the chief source of weather-related information," IMD director general Ajit Tyagi had said in an interview in October. It is also listed as one of the salient achievements of the ministry of earth sciences and ocean development, headed by Kapil Sibal. The weather channel is also part of the wide-ranging Rs900-crore modernization within IMD. Parallel to a move to procure state-of-the-art weather radars, IMD has also signed a deal with Meteo-France—its French counterpart—to buy equipment for weather advisory services.

IMD officials were unwilling to comment specifically on the matter of bids. “I can’t comment on speculation," said B.P. Yadav, spokesperson, IMD. “Right now, there are two channels and a technical committee is evaluating their bids. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we will choose one of them." Tyagi said it was inappropriate to comment on an ongoing bidding process. He, however, said IMD wouldn’t put in any money now.

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