The second phase of private FM radio is expected to take off soon, as the government is gearing up to take the draft guidelines to the Union Cabinet towards the end of this month. The exercise has gained momentum ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
An expert committee on radio headed by Ficci secretary general Amit Mitra, set up at the behest of the government, had submitted its recommendations for the second phase of FM radio in November last. Revenue-sharing with the government, permission for news and current affairs programmes, and 26 per cent FDI on par with news and current affairs TV channels, are likely to be the highlights of the new guidelines.
Currently, the expert committee recommendations are in the public domain (I&B ministry website) for further inputs from the industry. According to government sources, the revised draft guidelines for FM radio phase two would be sent for Cabinet approval after January 19. The idea is to put in place the norms for second phase of private FM, before the 13th Lok Sabha is dissolved, ahead of elections.
The expert committee was set up after the existing players in private FM, including Bennett Coleman and Living Media, protested against the steep licensing fee and foreign investment restriction in radio ventures.
The government, it is learnt, has decided to revise the FM radio guidelines, quite in line with the committee recommendations.
Among other things, the committee is of the view that the open auction bid process was not suitable for auctioning of frequencies, and has recommended the process of tendering.
Also, it has recommended a one-time entry fee and a 4 per cent revenue-sharing model, replacing the license regime. Also, the committee has pointed out that co-location of transmitters should not be made mandatory in Phase-II.