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Friday, Apr 30, 2004

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FM cos silent on licence fee payment

Our Bureau

New Delhi , April 29

PRIVATE FM radio companies may be celebrating their completion of one year of operations in the Capital, but the Government had really no reason to smile. For, none of these companies coughed up the licence fee on Thursday, demanding a deferment till the new norms on radio are finalised.

Private FM operators had to pay over Rs 100 crore as annual licence fee for the four metros by April 29 or within the next seven days. Sources in the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry said that officials of some of the private radio companies had met the Secretary, Mr Pawan Chopra, earlier on the issue of deferment.

``The companies felt that they should not pressurised to pay and accept the recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) which had suggested a deferment till the new policy is in place,'' they said.

The companies have also been claiming that they are making heavy losses and hence a revenue sharing arrangement would be a better option. The Ministry officials are, however, felt there is no case for a deferment. Also, with elections taking place, deferment would involve a policy change and a nod from the Cabinet.

The I&B Ministry is also awaiting the opinion of the Finance Ministry after the I&B Minister, Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, had sought the views of the Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh. Officials also added that the issue might be referred to the Election Commission as well. They added that a comprehensive view would be taken only after that and licenses would not be cancelled.

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