Television

Government mulls over opening FM radio to news, current affairs

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NEW DELHI: The Indian government may open up FM radio sector to news and current affairs programming as also the content being provided by a foreign broadcaster, which would mean restructuring the policy guideline regarding FM radio, private participation and foreign holding in such ventures that is not allowed at the moment.



This may happen as Auntie Beebs or BBC World Service (the radio service of the British Broadcasting Corporation) wants to hop onto the FM bandwagon in India and has opened up talks with the Indian government in this regard.



Admitting that BBC is keen to use the FM radio vehicle and has evinced interest, information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told indiantelevision.com today, "Personally, I am not against news and current affairs on FM radio, but the issue of a foreign broadcaster doing so has to be looked into in detail before any stand on this can be taken by the government."



Prasad also hinted that BBC is keen to forge a tie-up in this regard with India's pubcaster Prasar Bharati and use the vast network of the All India Radio for FM broadcasts.



Recently, while in London, Prasad visited the BBC's headquarters and spent almost a day there soaking in the functioning of BBC. He also visited Rupert Murdoch-promoted BSkyB's DTH facility in the UK.



But, if the government allows BBC radio to hook up with AIR and provide news and current affairs content to the AIR's FM channels, it also cannot keep such programming out of the private FM radio stations who have been crying themselves hoarse that they should also be allowed to air news and related programmes to woo a wider spread of listeners.



Moreover, if BBC World Service is allowed to hop onto the FM bandwagon, the government also cannot bar foreign investment, irrespective of the quantum, in private FM radio stations. At present, foreign investment in private FM radio ventures is disallowed, except FII shareholding as per the Reserve Bank of India guidelines, which is taken as portfolio investment.

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