New Delhi: The Union cabinet on Thursday approved the proposal of the information and broadcasting ministry to conduct e-auctions for the award of FM radio licences. In what will be phase 3 of the country’s FM expansion plan, the licences will be given to 839 new channels.
“It extends FM radio services to about 227 new cities,” information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said.
The government expects an income of Rs1,733 crore from the auction of the new channels.
The cabinet also increased foreign direct investment and foreign institutional investment limits in FM radio broadcasting companies to 26% from 20%. The e-auctions will be conducted in batches and details of the process will be decided by the ministry later.
The government has also eased content rules for private FM channels, which currently can’t carry news broadcasts. They will now be allowed to carry news bulletins from All India Radio.
Public service information will also be allowed as it won’t come under the label of news and current affairs. This relates to information on sports, traffic, weather, cultural events, exam results, admissions, career counseling and job opportunities. They will also be allowed to carry announcements regarding civic amenities -- electricity, water supply, natural calamities, health -- as provided by the local administration.
The cabinet also approved an increase of Rs3 crore in the allocation of local area development fund for members of Parliament. The increased annual allocation from Rs2 crore to Rs5 crore, which will be effective in the current financial year, involves a total annual expenditure of Rs3,950 crore.
In order to ensure the proper utilization of the funds, the ministry of statistics and programme implementation has been allocated Rs5 crore to monitor this through independent agencies.