Opinion | Radio companies need govt’s support, now more than ever2 min read . Updated: 30 Jun 2020, 07:54 AM IST
A relief package would help avoid shutting down of distressed radio stations
In a welcome move, the Union cabinet is all set to approve a proposal to slash the licence fee on wired broadband services to a token ₹1 per year per circle. The much-needed move will reduce the pressure on the telecom sector significantly, cutting home broadband costs and helping the operators expand their network coverage. This shot in the arm will make wired broadband services a lot more affordable, boost penetration levels, improve the business case of home broadband, help attract marquee investors and lead to increased job creation.
The covid-19 pandemic has adversely impacted multiple industries across the nation. In an unprecedented situation like this, relief measures and bailout packages by the Union government are a must to salvage the different industries and save the overall economy from a complete meltdown.
The radio industry is a key sector to have been severely impacted by the ongoing pandemic. The industry revenue for radio was estimated to be down by over 80% in April and 90% in May.
With no revenue from the commercial segments and zero government advertising, the radio industry witnessed a loss of over ₹200 crore in the first two months of FY21, and this is estimated to reach around ₹600 crore by September.
In view of the same, the Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI), an industry body of private FM channels, had reached out to the government seeking a ‘support package’.
In a letter to Union minister of information and broadcasting (I&B) Prakash Javadekar, the AROI sought a one-year waiver on all licence fees and charges by the government and Prasar Bharti and the wireless planning and coordination department of the information and broadcasting ministry; restoring government advertising on radio; clearance of government dues on advertising from the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), National Film Development Corp. (NFDC) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), and deferment of advance regulatory payments for FY21.
The I&B ministry has responded to the request with a three-month extension for licence fee payments without interest. While this will reduce the pressure on the industry to some extent, the support is much less than what had been requested for by the Association of Radio Operators for India.
Government support at this juncture is critical to help the radio companies survive and avoid a total collapse. A relief package would help avoid shutting down of distressed radio stations and drastic cost reduction measures such as job cuts.
Radio is an important media platform and an essential service for providing information and entertainment to the citizens. At various instances in the past, the medium has been applauded by the government for educating the listeners and spreading awareness via its social responsibility initiatives. Being a free-to-air medium, and with its reach to the farthest corners of the country, radio is critical for reaching out to the masses regarding public welfare announcements and during natural disasters and crisis such as covid-19.
Harshad Jain is chief executive, radio and entertainment business, HT Media Ltd.