The Delhi High Court has permitted Digital Radio Broadcasting, which runs Red FM, to participate in the main FM Phase III e-auction to be held today, reports IndianTelevision. The High Court had also let the agency participate in the mock e-auctions that took place yesterday.
In March, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) invited applications for the e-auction of the first batch of Phase III FM Radio channels. This first batch of Phase III auctions would consist of 135 FM radio channels across 69 cities. By the end of the month, the MIB received 28 applications for the auctions including from Digital Radio (Delhi) Broadcasting and Digital Radio (Mumbai) Broadcasting among other operators.
However, earlier this month, the Ministry issued a list of 21 bidders which did not include Red FM, subsequently informing the company that it had been denied permission to participate in the auctions, on the 15th July. Overall, the Ministry denied 5 companies of the Sun Group permission to participate in the auctions due to them being a part of the Maran group.
Taking the matter to court, Red FM asked to resubmit the application from the 20th of March, to participate in the e-auction. The company argued that there were no security issues involved despite the cases against Maran brothers, adding that the denial amounted to curbs on the freedom of media. Interestingly, the Government standing counsel said there could be no postponement in the e-auctions, prompting the Delhi High court to allow Red FM to participate in the mock auctions yesterday.
Note that the Madras HC had previously allowed the Sun TV Groups to participate in the auction despite the Maran connection. However, the Ministry still denied Red FM permission on similar grounds, a decision which the Delhi High court termed as ‘incongruent’.
Clearance for TV channels: Last month, the Sun TV Network denied receiving any communication from either the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) or the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), in regards to rejection of security clearance of its television channels. Reportedly, the MHA denied security clearance to all 33 channels of the Chennai-based Sun TV Network due to ‘economic security’. This could in effect lead to the cancellation of the Group’s broadcasting license.
Image source: Flickr user Marite Toledo