Thursday, November 12, 2009

FM cos may get to operate multiple frequencies

The Information & Broadcasting (I&B) ministry has proposed that FM radio players be allowed to operate multiple frequencies in
the same city, I & B secretary Raghu Menon said on Thursday while addressing a roundtable meet organised by the Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI) in Delhi.

Outlining the various proposals recommended in the draft note on FM radio expansion, Mr Menon said his ministry had proposed that multi-city networking be allowed for FM radio operators provided a certain percentage of the content remains local. At present, this facility is not permitted. The ministry has also recommended that the lock-in period for FM players be reduced from the current period of 5 years.

According to Mr Menon, the ministry may also allow FM radio players to carry limited news and non-news items like traffic and local events. But the news would be allowed to be sourced only from All India Radio relays. On foreign direct investment limit in FM radio, he said that I &B ministry favoured increasing the cap to 26%.

FM radio players have been demanding that the present 10 years license period be extended to 15 years as the radio industry is in a bad financial state. But Mr Menon said that the ministry will take a decision on license extension after some time.

He added that the 15% cap on ownership of frequencies across the country will continue (no company can own more than 15% of all stations in India) but added that this did not include border areas.

A final decision on all these proposals will be taken by the Union Cabinet and an announcement is expected to be made in January next year, said Mr Menon.

The third phase of the FM Radio expansion proposes adding 790 new channels in 290 towns which have a population of over 1 lakh.

But FM players don't want auctions to begin before the music royalty row is sorted out. In the last phase, at least 90 stations were not picked up. Analysts also say for the Phase-III bids to be successful, it is imperative that the music royalty issue is sorted out first.


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