New Delhi : The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry is all set to go ahead with phase III FM auctions as per schedule on 27th July. The ministry will inform the Delhi High Court of its decision today.
The move comes after the court asked the government to consider deferring the auctions or let Red FM — the FM radio unit of Sun Group — bid subject to the final outcome of a petition filed by the Sun group challenging its exclusion from the upcoming auctions.
Sun TV Group has moved the high courts in Delhi and Chennai to challenge the denial of permission to Red FM to bid in the auctions. The Madras High Court has deferred its judgement till Wednesday.
I&B ministry officials said there was no question of postponing the auction process as it is already behind schedule. “It is in the interest of people and for the nation’s revenues that the auction process gets over fast. The extended period of most companies as approved by the government ends in September and we need to finish the process for that. Else, the entire process of going through the Cabinet will have to be repeated,” a senior official at the ministry said.
The phase III FM auctions will commence from July 27. The I&B ministry is planning to conduct e-auction of 135 private FM channels in 69 cities. There are several sessions of mock auctions planned for bidders beginning Wednesday.
Five companies of Sun TV Group with 45 channels across the country have been denied security clearance by the MHA which bars them from participating in phase III FM auctions. In case of a denial of an opportunity to participate in the auction, Red FM faces a shut down as its existing licence is due to expire in September 2015.
While section media is making a hue cry against the government’s decision by terming it as suppression of Media freedom, Many are contradicting the view stating that the question of conflict of interest emerges, the very moment Dayanathi Maran assumed the Telecom Ministry under which many broadcast approval related decision making comes, while his family was largely involved in Media Broadcast Business.
They also feel that this is the first time an effective government has come to the power in center and the probe against Marans, which was kept under the wrap during the previous UPA government is being conducted with freehand to bring them before the law, making hue cry in the name of media freedom will only tantamount to pressure tactics to suppress a transparent and legitimate probe against the misuses of their power and position during the UPA government.
Ultimately, the fate of Phase III FM auction is in the hands of Madras High Court as it is expected to deliver its verdict on whether to stay or not, the auction process scheduled to be held on 27th July.