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India’s Phase III FM Expansion Underway

Ministry of Information responds to pre-bid questions

India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting says its FM expansion efforts have entered Phase III, according to the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. The MIB recently responded to operators’ queries during the pre-bid conference for the first batch of 135 FM frequencies.

This is of interest in part because of the 15 percent cap imposed on each bidding phase. In the first auctions, larger operators like Big FM and Red FM said they would not be able to competitively participate unless they surrendered existing frequencies, which they considered counterproductive.

The MIB declined to grant an exception because the limit was prescribed in government policy. The ministry also rejected the suggestion to remove the 1 percent increase in Clock Round Price, where bidders equal frequencies, and to waive the three-year lock-in period, which prevents the largest Indian shareholder of an existing license holder from changing the ownership pattern of the company through transfer of shares.

The MIB also said it would not entertain the idea of a single-stage auction instead of the two-stage process involving channel allocation and frequency allocation.

A suggestion to give pan-India networks preference in choosing frequency in other cities was also rejected.