FM b'cast policy tipped for a change before general elections

NEW DELHI: The government is contemplating on taking a final view on the recommendations of an expert panel, on FM radio broadcast policy, before the country gets into the general elections mode, which is likely to happen March onwards.

According to government sources, the last date for sending in feedback on the panel's suggestions expires on 19 January, after which the information and broadcasting minister proposes to move a cabinet note to effect changes in the existing policy, if need be. Any change in the FM radio broadcast policy would have to have the green signal from the full Cabinet.

"This is evident from the fact that work on a paper on FM radio broadcast policy is going on at the moment so that not much time is wasted in seeking Cabinet okay on the changes suggested," a government source said, adding that this is despite the fact that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been appointed the regulator for the broadcast sector too.

Since clarity on I&B ministry's role, post TRAI development, is still not forthcoming, the I&B ministry would have a say in the formulation of policies regarding broadcast and cable sector, though TRAI, technically, comes under the telecom ministry, the source said.

The FM radio panel, headed by Ficci's secretary-general Amit Mitra, last year had submitted its recommendations after extensive consultation with the industry and government officials.

Amongst some of the radical suggestions, it had been said that news and current affairs programming be allowed on private FM radio stations as also bring foreign investment norms in such ventures at par with those prevalent in the electronic and print media.

In the print and electronic medium, for the news category, foreign investment is permitted up till 26 per cent. Of course, such investments come with heavy riders to safeguard against foreigners taking full control of news ventures in India.

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