News on FM radio: I&B Minister reiterates allowance of only AIR bulletins, industry hopes for change of stance

Prakash Javadekar was responding to a question in the Lok Sabha on 16 July

Jul 17, 2014 02:07:00 PM | Article | Ananya Saha

Responding to a question in the Lok Sabha on 16 July 2014, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar stated that private FM stations will be permitted to carry AIR news bulletins, as they are aired by the state broadcaster. This is in line with the guidelines approved by the previous government for phase III of FM radio (2011). However, Javadekar said this policy could be relaxed in future based on the experience with AIR news, according to multiple news reports.
Private FM players are united in underlining that airing of AIR news would not allow differentiation on the part of FM stations.
“Broadcasting the news content exactly from the AIR bulletin is not going to add much value to the existing content,” said Apurva Purohit, CEO, Radio City. Reiterating that the minister has announced nothing new, she added, “We would await further announcement from the ministry in this regard and would be happy if the government relaxes the norms and allows us to air news which will be part of the enriched content we provide our listeners.”
Players have been pushing for policy that allows them to carry news as part of its content, and are hoping in the next phase of FM radio in India this would happen. In addition to differentiation, restricting news to AIR’s feed does not allow localisation, underlined Harrish M Bhatia, CEO, My FM.
He said, “We are from DB Corp, which owns news properties. In case we still have to broadcast news from AIR, how would we do it for the local radio stations that we run? And even if we do, news will be stale by the time we broadcast it. The stance on carrying AIR news is same as the previous government. In principle, it would not be a good move for the industry.”
Concurring with Purohit, Prashant Panday, MD and CEO, ENIL (Radio Mirchi), said, “It was merely a reply given by the Hon'ble minister to a question asked in Parliament about the current policy - the phase III policy as announced by the previous govt. We're awaiting the new policy announcement from the minister."
Terming the allowance of AIR bulletins (as is) 'partially disappointing', Nisha Narayan, COO, Red FM, said, "So far AIR has been enjoying an unfair monopoly on the broadcast of news and current affairs which is a violation of the Supreme Court's 1995 judgement. While the current statement by I&B is definitely good news, we would hope that with time, the government will further relax the policy to give freedom to private FM channels to broadcast news independently. Opposing it outrightly at the moment will only delay the process and implementation of phase III even further, which we wouldn't want. While this wasn't exactly the news we were waiting for, we are hopeful that it will lay the path for a more independent and liberal policy."