| 28 May 2024
Red FM's Nisha Narayanan placing her faith in judicial system

MUMBAI: Out of 28 applicants who applied for the e-auction of 135 Private FM Radio channels for Phase III expansion, seven applications were rejected. Apart from Sun TV Group (Kal Radio Ltd, South Asia FM Ltd, Sun TV Network Ltd, Digital Radio (Delhi) Broadcasting Ltd and Digital Radio (Mumbai) Broadcasting Ltd), the other two applicants rejected were Shahi Shipping Ltd and Sunplant Broadcasting Pvt. Ltd.

However, the decision to keep Sun TV Group’s Red FM and Suryan FM from proceeding to the pre-qualified bidders’ level, due to denial of security clearance, “will harm the industry in the long-run as a major player will be absent,” said Red FM COO Nisha Narayanan. She added, “If we do not participate in the auction, it will certainly reduce the intensity of the bidding with less competition. Hence, the amount of money the government will earn from this auction will be impacted.”

Red FM has been backed by The Indian Broadcasters Federation (IBF), Association of Radio Operators of India (AROI), Broadcast Editors Association (BEA) and News Broadcasters Association (NBA) as well. Narayanan thanked the entire broadcast industry for its “unconditional support.” Indian Broadcasting Foundation president Uday Shankar described the move by the Ministry as “arbitrary and unfortunate”. The exclusion of Sun Group on the basis of on-going prosecution is termed by IBF as “miscarriage of law and justice.”News Broadcasters Association president and India TV chairman Rajat Sharma called the dependence on security clearance for licence and operation of medium as “unwarranted and unjustifiable.”

AROI president Anurradha Prasad felt that “to exclude such a big network will impact the industry negatively.” To which Narayanan added, “For the industry to grow and the market to expand you need the existing players to expand into new cities, and you need more players to come into the FM business.”

When asked about the expiration of the Phase II license, Narayanan commented, “The MIB (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) has only communicated to us about not being qualified to bid in the Phase III auctions and not on extensions.” She also revealed, “The top management is actively pursuing the legal recourse available. We have full faith in the judicial system of our country and we hope to get relief from the court.”

Narayanan, through email conversation, maintained Red FM’s faith in the judicial system. The group will only take a legal route and refrain from any other path to resolve the tricky situation.

She also stated that the only official communication from the I&B Ministry was the letter denying participation in the auction process. She denied that any investigation was carried on Red FM by an authority/ ministry/ investigative body in the network’s premises.

Narayanan also maintained that business is going on as usual at Red FM. Commenting on brand association, she said, “As of now, it has not impacted our brand partnerships in any way. Our advertising partners are with us and its business as usual for both.”

Red FM and Suryan FM operate around 45 stations in the country, and if closure for the networks should arise, approximately 800 people will be affected directly. “We are the only national player in the North-East states and have actively led to the development of the local music industry. As a network we actively encourage women to apply for jobs and encourage their participation. We have been in the forefront of taking up CSR issues. We pride ourselves on being the station for expression for the common man.”