Bringing down the curtains over their proposed participation, the government has decided not to allow five companies belonging to the Kalanithi Maran-owned Sun Network to participate in the Phase III e-auction of private FM Radio channels.
A direct fallout of the Ministry of Home Affairs having denied security clearance to these companies, the decision to not allow these companies, however, will not immediately seal the fate of the 33 Sun TV channels which have also been denied security clearance by the ministry.
“We are legally examining the matter relating to the 33 TV channels separately. We will have to protect the interests of the consumers before taking a decision,” top I&B Ministry sources said. Sources added that if the I&B ministry was to cancel the broadcast licence of these 33 channels because they failed to get security clearance, it would also have to consider protecting interests of consumers subscribing to them.
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Of the 28 companies that had applied to participate in the auction of 135 private FM Radio channels across 69 cities, the I&B ministry has cleared 21 companies, disallowing five Sun Network companies on grounds of not having the MHA clearance and two more companies for not fulfilling necessary formalities.
The government’s decision not to allow Sun Network companies followed hectic deliberations at top levels. With the MHA having decided to deny security clearance, the I&B ministry—anticipating strictures from courts in case the matter went into litigation—argued that the government needed to take a considered and the collective view on the matter to prevent any embarrassment later.
With 21 companies now having been cleared, the I&B ministry will now hold a daylong training session for pre-qualified bidders on July 17 at National Media Centre. “Since an e-auction of radio channels is being held for the first time, we need to train the participants about the process. We will also propose to hold a mock e-auction sometime next week,” an I&B ministry official said.