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Odia TV broadcaster Sarthak plans to enter FM radio biz

MUMBAI: Already present in the television broadcasting space, Sarthak Group has decided to enter the private FM radio space. While the TV business is housed under Sarthak Entertainment, the radio business will form part of Sarthak Films.

Sarthak is among the 13 players that recently formed part of the list of new applicants to bid for the first batch of frequencies available in the FM radio auctions. The company is planning to launch a local Odia FM radio channel.

Sarthak is among those few new entrants that already have a presence in the regional broadcast or publishing space. The launch of a radio station is aimed to further stabilise and increase their presence in the markets.

Sarthak Entertainment presently runs its Odia general entertainment channel Sarthak TV, launched five years back, and runs a music production arm called Sarthak Music, as well as a movie production and distribution arm Sarthak Films.

Sarthak Entertainment MD Sitaram Agrawal told TelevisionPost.com that the company had planned to foray into the radio space during FM Phase I, back in the 1990s.

“We missed the opportunity to apply for a radio licence back then as we found the TV space to be more interesting at that time and applied for a TV channel licence instead,” he said.

During Phase II, the company’s application got cancelled during the technical bidding round. With FM radio Phase III on the anvil, the company does not want to miss out on the chance now.

Sarthak has already laid out a plan for the radio station, which it aims to operate as an Odia FM channel playing music in the local language. The first batch of auctions has two cities of Odisha—Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. Sarthak intends to pick both cities and be present in both markets.

According to Agrawal, having its own music production arm has enabled the company to have a large library of Odia songs. “Besides already having a large library, we also have the required infrastructure for a radio studio. We just need to invest in the licence fee and to put up the transmitter. The content cost is negligible for us,” Agrawal claimed.

Presently, Red FM, Big FM and Radio Choklate are the three big players present in the state. While Red FM and Big FM play mainly Bollywood music, it is only Choklate that airs some Odia music.

Agrawal mentioned that Odisha used to be a Hindi content market as audiences did not have an option of good quality content in the local language. The launch of TV channels like Tarang and Sarthak TV helped the consumption pattern shift.

“It’s the local players that are successful here as they know and understand the entertainment requirements of the people. Since we have been in the business for a long time, we have a sense of music and will play music of every era on our station,” he stated.

Sarthak Entertainment reportedly has two directors—Sitaram Agrawal and Namita Agrawal. The company has no investors and is run by the husband–wife duo.

Agrawal revealed that the company is debt free and has sufficient cash flow to bid for the upcoming auctions and gain the two frequencies in the Odisha market. “We will not let it go this time,” he asserted.