Music-lovers jarred as WorldSpace downs shutters

Subscribers to satellite radio service WorldSpace found their Christmas celebrations dampened by an announcement from the popular broadcaster that it would stop operating in India at the end of this year.

In an email notice to its 450,000-odd Indian subscribers, WorldSpace said that "On 31 December 2009, the WorldSpace satellite radio broadcast service will be terminated for all customers serviced from India."

It added that "this action is an outgrowth of the financial difficulties facing WorldSpace India's parent company, WorldSpace Inc, which has been under bankruptcy protection since October 2008".

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing did not cover Indian operations, and it was widely believed that the service would continue, as India accounts for about 95 per cent of WorldSpace's customers. But this was not to be.

The news comes as a huge blow for music lovers, as WorldSpace provides content that is nowhere near being available on any Indian radio channel. Among its wide range of genres, there were channels specialising in classical, jazz, classic rock and regional language music, as well as sports and news updates.

Moreover, the music came without advertising interruptions. FM stations in India are all supported by advertising, and hence they all end up playing nearly the same music - mainly the 'hottest' tracks from new films. No wonder the notoriously stingy Indians were willing to shell out as much as Rs1,800 a year for the service.