RadioandMusic
| 20 Jan 2020
I&B Ministry has been very unfair to Radio: ENIL's Prashant Panday

The recent decision taken by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B Ministry) in favour of ENIL and TVTN (TV Today Network Limited), reflects the light at the end of the tunnel for the radio industry. After a series of approvals, disapprovals and court cases for various radio networks, the I&B Ministry finally offered some good news, regarding the approval to acquire four TVTN (TV Today Network Limited) radio stations i.e. radio businesses in Amritsar, Jodhpur, Patiala and Shimla.

In a recent interview with Radioandmusic.com, ENIL MD and CEO Prashant Panday shared his views on the way the I&B Ministry has dealt with Radio over the years, and how it continues to do so. He also expressed his support for Red FM and Suryan FM, who challenged the Ministry’s decision of disallowing the network to bid for the upcoming Phase III auctions.

Do you consider this an achievement after everything ENIL and TVTN faced due to decline of approval?

Absolutely, it has taken nearly five months to get this approval.

Which cities are you targeting for this auction?

Obviously, I cannot disclose that.

Do you agree with the I&B Ministry’s decision that you cannot acquire stations in the three cities that ENIL is already present in? Will you challenge the decision again?

Do not agree at all. We have already challenged the Government in the Delhi HC, and we hope to get a favourable order on that. But what I really hope is that the MIB itself will give us the permission to acquire, considering the convincing arguments we have presented to them.

Red FM is facing trouble to get to the auction process. Did you ever think ENIL would not get an approval? What is your take on the Red FM situation?

We were never in doubt about getting our approval. We are a listed company, with a world-class Board. We follow every single law of the land and we have never been in default ever.

With respect to Red FM, we believe that denying them security clearance is unfair considering so many factors. We have supported Red FM by being the first ones in AROI to write a letter to MIB expressing our views.

If the approval had not happened, what would your plan of action be?

Never thought of this.

Do you think the I&B Ministry is stern with the Radio industry?

Yes, and unnecessarily. Radio has always been a matter of pride for the MIB. It has always acquired spectrum only through auctions, right from Phase-1 in the year 2000. Even when the auctions were flawed and the industry suffered heavily (Phase-I); it never dragged the Government into litigation. Nor did it stop paying its dues. Even though the whole country faced an economic slowdown since 2009, and the government extended sops to all segments of the industry, it did nothing for radio. It increased advertising rates for newspapers, but it did nothing for radio. It went ahead and fixed reserve prices for Phase-III, which makes no sense at all. More than half the licenses will be left unsold in the first batch. And if it goes ahead with its plan for the second batch, more than 75 per cent of those licenses will be unsold. That aside, the Government denies us the right to broadcast news. This is completely unfair. So yes, the MIB has been very very unfair to radio.

What will your plan of action be, now that you have got hold of four stations?

We will launch the Mirchi brand in these markets. We will integrate the team of Oye FM, which we believe to be very talented. We will expand the market and we will offer more choice to listeners in these markets. For the first time, people in these cities will have a good radio station to listen to.

How much will you end up spending on revamping the station?

Not much. The infrastructure is mostly in place. We will spend on programming and marketing. We will also have a plan to expand the team and integrate them into the buzzing Mirchi culture.

Can we expect any more acquisitions?

The Government has a 3-year lock-in clause for new licenses. This is a dampener for M&A activity. But within the law, if opportunities emerge, we will certainly look at them.

What's next for ENIL?

We are focused on radio. We will build a network that will expand across the country. We hope to delight our listeners even more in the years to come. And we hope to give better returns to our shareholders.