The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a consultation paper on ‘Issues relating to third phase of private FM radio broadcasting’. Among other issues, the paper deals with whether to allow news and current affairs programme on FM radio. The issue has already been a topic of debate among radio broadcasters.
Other highlights of the consultation paper is analyses of various issues related to FM radio broadcasting such as expansion of FM radio to smaller cities, including the shift from city permission concept to district permission concept, number of channels to be made available in a city, FDI cap, networking guidelines, level playing field between FM broadcasters vis-à-vis satellite radio broadcasters, change in ownership permission and automatic renewal of permission, among others.
Apart from this a number of technical issues relating to co-channel spacing and collocation of FM broadcast transmitters have been raised for deliberation. The international experiences have been compiled to get better understanding of present scenario in other countries.
Due to the huge growth of FM radio industry and demand for further expansion of its coverage, the government is considering expansion of FM radio to other cities through private agencies under phase-III. The government has hence sought the recommendations of TRAI under Section 11(1) (a) of TRAI Act, 1997, on the modifications to be incorporated in the policy for FM radio broadcasting, phase-III.
FM radio broadcasting was first launched in the country in 1999 and subsequently 21 private channels became operational. Based on the popularity of FM radio among the masses, the government offered 337 new channels for bidding by private agencies, covering additional cities and towns in phase-II, in July 2005. As an outcome, letters of intent (LoI) for 245 channels were issued and 136 channels have become operational. The 97 vacant slots of this phase were put on re-bid recently. It is expected that FM broadcasting coverage will soon be extended to cover a total of 92 cities.