Sucheta Dalal :WorldSpace radio to exit India on New Year’s Eve
Sucheta Dalal

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WorldSpace radio to exit India on New Year’s Eve  

December 25, 2009

On New Year’s Eve, apart from the bygone year, music lovers in India will bid farewell to something they have really cherished—the musical service called WorldSpace satellite radio.


In a statement, WorldSpace Inc, the parent company of WorldSpace India, said,”On December 31, 2009, the WorldSpace satellite radio broadcast service will be terminated for all customers serviced from India.”  While this termination is well before the end of its prepaid subscriptions, many subscribers are upset over the fact that they will not receive the service, rather the money that they stand to lose.


WorldSpace is listed on the Nasdaq, and is tottering under a $2.1-billion debt. It is seeking to raise fresh funds to repay its obligations.


In the note posted on its website, the company has said that the main reason for the termination was that the potential buyer of much of WorldSpace’s global assets has decided not to buy the WorldSpace assets relating to—and supporting—its subscription business in India.


When the service was launched in India, the annual subscription offered was around Rs1,800 in 2005. The satellite radio network has around 170,000 subscribers in over 130 countries including India. Moreover, over 95% of the subscribers to the service are from India.


On the refund involved in the services which would be terminated well before the subscription expiry date, WorldSpace stated, “The company recognises that you may have paid for services to be rendered beyond the termination date, but is not in a position to offer a refund for any unused portion of your subscription.”


According to reports, US-based media company Liberty Media has already bought out WorldSpace’s liabilities from its creditors. Interestingly, Liberty Media holds 40% stake in Sirius XM Radio and as per reports, chief executives of both the companies had said that there is a possibility of a joint Sirius XM/Liberty Media global satellite radio venture between the two.


WorldSpace has offered a claim procedure to be undertaken next year under US bankruptcy law. However, more than the claims, what bothers Indian subscribers most is the discontinuation of a quality music service, which Indian FM channels have failed to provide.


“I just wanted to hold my head and start crying for the sake of classical music. They did not even inform us,” said Vitthal Nadkarni, a senior journalist, who was caught unawares about the notice even as classic music from WorldSpace continued to play in his father’s room.


“I was completely surprised that they could do such a thing. The issue is not the subscription paid. It was doing so well, it was part of our life. It was money well spent anyway,” said Anand Desai, another WorldSpace subscriber from India.


“I thought it was a very good service. The music was available whenever you wanted. It is a pity. We tend to use the classical channel more, but they offered a lot of variety. It is indeed a sorry thing. I think more than the money (lost), the quality would be missed,” added Vimla Nadkarni, another ardent fan of classical music offered by WorldSpace.


Subscribers are divided over whether subscribers should file for a claim. “We will check out, but I think we will file for the claim if we get a chance,” said Ms Nadkarni.


Mr Desai, however, had a different opinion. “Whatever they have delivered has been so good, that you don’t want to file a claim. Anyway, filing a claim is useless,” he said.


He ended on an optimistic note, wishing revival for the radio channel in India. “I wish somebody saves it, at least the Indian part. I was looking for some local FM channels buying out the rights. Playing the service on your car radio would be fantastic.”
Amritha Pillay


-- Sucheta Dalal