India’s FM Expansion Continues

India’s cabinet has cleared the way for 839 new FM radio channels to go on the air in 2013, according to The Hindu Business Line.

The third phase of the e-auction has been approved to expand FM services from 86 to 294 cities across the country, the Times of India has reported, all of which have populations of at least 1 lakh (100,000) or more and concentrate on the border states, especially those in the northeast.

These will be allocated during the third phase of the auction, the guidelines for which were approved last Wednesday, Business Line says.
At the Wednesday meeting, the Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also accepted recommendations for the auction process. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry expects a profit of approximately Rs 1,532 crore (approximately US $282,820,855.00) from the auction.
Additional channels that could be created by reducing the inter-channel spacing to 400 kHz may be considered for auction after feasibility studies, according to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. The same article noted that other proposed changes to the auction will be handled by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, headed by Manish Tewari.

Content sharing and permission to broadcast AIR news are part of the cabinet’s provisions for the FM expansion, the Times says. Additionally, no more than 15 percent of the stations in the entire country can be held by one group, although one may control the majority of the northeast, for example, in order to encourage development. Finally, stations will be required to keep recordings for three months, for monitoring and complaint purposes, according to Tewari.

The Times says other incentives include an annual license fee (normally 4 percent of the gross revenue earned or 2.5 percent of the one time entry fee). If the FM station uses AIR or DD infrastructure, its rental fee will be 50 percent. The migration fee from phase II to phase III will be assessed later, according to ministry sources.

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