Cabinet approves expansion of private radio service


New Delhi : The union cabinet Thursday approved expansion of FM radio broadcasting services through private operators to 227 new cities. It also listed categories which will be considered as non-news and hence can be broadcast on private radio channels.

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Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said the FM Phase-III policy will extend radio service to about 227 new cities, in addition to the already present 86 cities. A total of 839 new FM radio channels will be launched in 294 cities.

She said the policy will result in coverage of all cities with population of one lakh and above. The policy also permits radio operators to carry All India Radio news bulletins.

Categories like sporting event information, traffic and weather, coverage of cultural events, festivals, coverage of topics pertaining to examinations, results, admissions, career counselling and availability of employment opportunities will be treated as non-news and non-current affairs and hence its broadcast will be permissible.

Broadcast about public announcements pertaining to civic amenities like electricity, water supply, natural calamities and health alerts, as provided by the local administration, will also be treated as non-news.

The limit on the ownership of channels, at the national level, has been retained at 15 percent. However, channels allotted in Jammu and Kashmir, northeastern states and island territories will be allowed over and above the 15 percent national limit.

Private operators have been allowed to own more than one channel but not more than 40 percent of the total channels in a city subject to a minimum of three different operators in the city.

The Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Institutional Investment limit in a private FM radio broadcasting company has been increased from 20 percent to 26 percent.

The cabinet has also cleared the information and broadcasting ministry’s proposal for conducting ascending e-auction, as followed by the telecommunication department for the auction of 3G and BWA (broadband wireless access) spectrum.