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News |  01 Jul 2009 12:34 |  By AnitaIyer

Essel Group surrenders Phase-II licenses

MUMBAI: Pan India Network Infravest Private Limited (an Essel Group company) has sought to surrender its five licenses for phase II of FM radio. The other three licenses were returned in 2008 itself.

Although the Subhash Chandra led Essel Group had acquired eight frequencies by bidding in Phase-II in 2006, none of the stations went full fledged live on air. According to an Information and Broadcast notification to the Essel Group on 15 May 2009, the group has been asked to furnish the requisite information before its 'request for acceptance for termination notice'is considered. Mentioned as Z-FM on the I&B website, the Essel stations were to be run in Allahabad, Amritsar, Agra, Patiala and Varanasi. Essel Group had returned their licenses in Jalgaon, Akola and Nanded to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry in May 2008 as the group believed that the business in Maharashtra was not feasible with only those three stations, say sources.

I&B ministry sources confirm that as the Essel Group did not conform to the terms and conditions mentioned by I&B Ministry, "we decided to revoke their license and have issued a notice regarding the same....

There is legal correspondence between the ministry and Essel group in process and the licenses will be acquired by the ministry soon,... say the sources. As per the terms and conditions of FM commercial stations, the bidder, in this case the Essel Group will not receive any refund after returning the license to the government. The group has spent around Rs 113 million approximately for acquiring these licenses in Phase –II, indicate sources.

The frequencies acquired from Essel Group will be opened for bidding in the Phase- III, say officials.

Sources however say that 80 per cent of the studio work was completed on the stations in the north but hit a roadblock during the economic slowdown around Feb 2009. This is the second time Essel has developed cold feet with its radio venture. Although the stations did not go live, royalty free music was being played for 18 hours a day for some months.

When contacted, an official Essel spokesperson said the company would not like to make any formal comment on the matter.

Zee Radio, another Essel venture, was launched in the UK in January 2008 by Shah Rukh Khan. Zee Radio had the license to operate on the AM radio broadcast band for six hours while its DAB digital radio was round-the-clock. However, Zee Network Europe wound up its station Zee Radio in the UK on 30 April this year. The assets being sold by Zee included a London DAB licence, an AM analogue licence for six hours per day, a DTH (direct-to-home) satellite radio channel, a place on the Sky EPG and an online radio streaming website.