India’s proposed policy on satellite radio may now be kept on hold. The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has prepared a draft Cabinet note for the satellite radio policy, but now a policy is unlikely because WorldSpace radio has decided to shut its India operation. US-based WorldSpace, which is the only entity operating satellite radio in India, has announced that its service will be terminated in the country on 31 December. WorldSpace, which started its service in India in the year 2000, has been operating without any policy framework so far.
While there was no limit on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in satellite radio due to lack of any regulation, the new policy was expected to cap FDI at 74%. The draft cabinet note had indicated that WorldSpace would have been given three years to comply with the guidelines.
Sources have pointed out that the new owner of WorldSpace may restart the India operation, perhaps with a new brand name. “They would return if the system allows them. After all, they have retained the satellites, technology and the associated assets,” a source argued. However, the receiver sets may have to be changed even if the India operation resumes, as the new service may be offered on terrestrial platform.
Several media houses in the country are believed to have been keen on buying the WorldSpace India business, but no transaction has been executed so far. Around 300 employees in the WorldSpace India office, in Bangalore, have lost their job due to the closure.