FM Radio Policy In India


Frequency Modulation (FM) Radio, widely considered as an effective medium to provide entertainment, information and education, was unrolled in 1999. In the Phase-I of FM Radio broadcasting, 21 private FM radio channels became operational in 12 cities.

Subsequently, in 2005, 221 channels covering 87 cities having population equal to or more than 3 lakhs got operational in the second phase (Phase-II). FM Phase-II Policy was based on the recommendations of Dr Amit Mitra Committee and TRAI.

Phase III Of FM Radio Broadcasting

Although many cities were covered by the FM radio during the two phases, still a significant chunk of population remained uncovered. In order to meet existing unmet demand for FM radio in many cities, the Government rolled out Phase III of FM Radio broadcasting in 2011.

The grounds for further expansion of private FM radio were listed as under:

  • A limited number of cities with a population of three lakh and above were taken up for bidding during the first two phases
  • Border areas like J&K, North Eastern States and Island territories remained untouched by the FM radio wave
  • In the Phase II, 97 channels remained vacant due to various reasons

FM Phase-Ill Policy extends FM radio services to about 227 new cities, in addition to the present 86 cities, with a total of 839 new FM radio Channels in 294 cities. Phase -III policy will result in coverage of all cities with a population of one lakh and above with private FM radio channels. Due to the impetus given by the FM policy, the size of the Radio industry has grown from 600 crore in 2006 and is expected to be valued at 1540 crore in 2014.

Salient Features Of Phase III Of FM Radio Policy
  • FM broadcasters have been allowed to air news bulletins of All India Radio
  • Certain categories like sports, traffic, weather, cultural events, festivals, educational information related to examination, examination results, admission, career counselling, employment opportunities, information related to civic amenities like electricity, water supply, natural calamities have been declared as non-news and current affairs broadcast
  • The limit on the ownership of Channels, at the national level, allocated to an entity has been retained at 15%
  • Channels allotted in Jammu & Kashmir, North Eastern States and island territories will be allowed over and above the 15% national limit to incentivise the bidding for channels in such areas
  • FDI+FII limit in a private FM radio broadcasting company has been raised to 26% from the existing 20%
  • The provisions of the Policy will also be available to FM Phase-II operators
TRAI’s Recommendations

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has recommended that FM radio players that migrate from Phase II to Phase III of the rolling out of channels should be allowed to operate for fifteen years. The authority has also reiterated that the minimum channel spacing of 400 Khz should be implemented as it will increase the number of FM channels in each city for auction. Cutoff date for migration is to be decided by the Ministru of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) after the completion of auction process for Phase-III of FM Radio. However, the cutoff date for migration should not be later than 31st March 2015.

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