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Adgully Exclusive | Phase III, policy kinks and growth plans: Radio Mirchi's Prashant Pandey

The radio industry for over a span of a year now was questioned, re-questioned and asked to spill more on its plans when the Phase III would be launched. But as the nail-biting suspense was being grappled, the industry heard the news about Government giving a nod to the much-awaited Phase III.

On 7th July 2011 the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cleared guidelines of the much-delayed FM Radio Phase III expansion. Thought the Phase-III will roll out in a short-while, it would ensure availability of 806 radio stations across 283 cities and reportedly when added to the already existing radio stations the number will reach to a stupendous 839 new FM radio channels in 294 cities.

The Cabinet in the same meeting also approved to increase the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in FM radio channels to 26 per cent from the current 20 per cent.

Even though the first two phases of FM radio expansion have taken place several years ago, the third phase of the process was lying in a midpoint due to disagreement from the industry to certain norms prevalent currently, including royalty to be paid to music companies.

Adding to the clarity on FDI and stronger expansion opportunities the Government also gave a heads up to the radio operators to carry news bulletins of All India Radio (AIR).

With plans chalked out well in advance radio operators got engrossed in implementing the plans. So Adgully caught up with Prashant Pandey, Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer, Radio Mirchi, to know more about the country's leading radio station's plans for the much-talked about Phase III.

Talking about the stations plans post the e-auctioning of the radio stations, Pandey says, "We will bid to grow our network in Phase III, but our guiding mantra will remain reasonableness of our bids. We are not interested in having a large network which is unprofitable. There are some kinks in the policy and these need to be ironed out before auctions are done. Only then will 839 frequencies really be auctioned."

Radio Mirchi has also created a team of experts who will only strategically focus on Phase III. The team is headed by Mahesh Shetty, Chief Strategy Officer, Radio Mirchi.

However Pandey is quick enough to add that there are some policy kinks right now. "Depending on what happens with these kinks, we will decide how we want to go about bidding in the metros and small towns. We are very keen, but we will not do anything that will upset us or the radio industry in the long run," he adds empathetically.

Not revealing much about the station's content plans either, Pandey says, "Again, content plans depend on how much the licenses cost. If the costs are high, then I am not sure we will be able to offer all that we want to offer. Let's see. It's too early to say."

Pandey also adds that because of networking being allowed, costs of operating for smaller stations can come down a bit. Moreover he says as multiple frequencies are being allowed, costs of some metro stations could come down as well.

While signing off we ask him if he sees a lack of talent to understand and direct the radio industry to growth with the new Phase III, Pandey says, "I don't think there is a shortage of talent at all. If there is any shortage being felt, it's more to do with our lack of efforts." | By Prabha Hegde [prabha(at)adgully.com]

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