After nearly two years of deliberations and fine-tuning of an earlier Cabinet decision, the Centre on Wednesday finally cleared the "amendments" to the third-phase (FM-III) policy guidelines for the expansion of FM radio via private agencies. The move paves way for private FM radio operators to bid and win 839 FM stations across 294 towns. The existing radio operators (around 30-odd firms) will also be allowed to migrate to FM-III after paying a migration fees, which will be decided in consultation with the broadcast sector regulator.
According to the official statement, the Cabinet approved the proposals already cleared by an empowered group of ministers (EGoM) in March, allowing awarding 839 channels in 294 cities through an ascending e-auction as was approved by the Cabinet in July 2011.
Regarding the inclusion of additional FM channels in the current towns via the reduction in inter-channel spacing, as suggested by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India last year, the Cabinet decision said it will be considered only after feasibility studies are completed. This decision is expected to cheer up a large number of existing FM companies who had opposed the move all through the consultation process conducted by Trai. The EGoM on FM-III was looking into specific issues arising out of the Cabinet decisions of July 2011 that mandated the I&B ministry to conduct the FM-III auctions exactly as the 3G and BWA auctions in 2010. "The proposed specific departures from the Requests for Proposals followed in DoT for auction of 3G and Broadband Wireless Access Spectrum circulated as annexure to the agenda note were approved with some amendments," the statement said.