Last week, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) delivered its recommendations to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting for the third phase of private FM radio broadcasting in India.
The authority identified three major barriers to growth of the FM sector — the prohibition of news programming, group operations and networking, and city-based licenses — and recommended changes.
Speaking to the question of allowing news programming on private FM channels, the TRAI stated: “Information requirements of a large section of the unserved population and those who lack access to information through other means like Internet, television services, etc. can be conveniently met without any cost to the receiving population only through FM radio services.”
It recommended that stations be allowed to broadcast news from “AIR, Doordarshan, authorized TV news channels, UNI, PTI and any other authorized news agency.”
As to networking, TRAI stated that the private FM sector would benefit from loosening networking and ownership limits. The authority recommended allowing operators to run multiple stations in a market, so long at there were three operators, excluding the public-service broadcaster All India Radio (AIR), already present in the market. It also recommended removing the 15 percent national cap on ownership, and allowing individual stations to network within their ownership group.
Finally, it recommended shifting licensing to a district basis, instead of the current city-based basis. “This one step would effectively enhance the area of operations of FM radio broadcasting to a larger geographical area, thus covering a larger population. This again would result in reduction in the cost of operations for the broadcasters,” the report stated.
Other recommendations include raising foreign investment caps from 20% to 26% for stations interesting in carrying news programming and up to 49% for music-only stations.
The full recommendations are available as a PDF from the TRAI Web site.
In a separate consultation, TRAI announced plans to examine the question of allowing federal states, political bodies, religious groups and other organizations to operate radio and/or television services.