New Delhi: The information & broadcasting (I&B) ministry on Thursday allowed South Asia FM Limited, a part of Kalanithi Maran’s Sun Group, to launch five new FM stations under the first batch of phase 3 auctions of radio privatization.

This essentially means that South Asia FM will now be able to launch new FM channels on the frequencies won across Surat, Amritsar, Patna, Chandigarh and Jammu. The company had spent Rs47.6 crore in the auction that concluded in September 2015.

Sun Group operates three FM radio companies— Digital Radio Broadcasting which operates Red FM, Kal Radio and South Asia FM Ltd.

“It is a step ahead for us. We have also been allowed to participate in the second batch," said Nisha Narayanan, chief operating officer at 93.5 Red FM.

Under the first batch, Sun Group had won a total of eight frequencies, out of which three were for Red FM. The ministry had given its nod to Red FM, but had denied permission to South Asia FM to set up any stations on the frequencies bought under the first batch.

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This happened after the ministry of home affairs in 2015 turned down the security clearance for Sun Group as Kalanithi Maran and his brother, former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, were facing charges of money laundering.

Earlier in 2015, Red FM was also refused the chance to participate in the first batch by the I&B ministry because the home ministry had refused security clearance to the company.

Later, the Delhi high court allowed Red FM to participate in the auctions and even allowed the company to migrate to phase 3 licences for radiowaves.

Currently, Sun Group is also participating in the ongoing second batch of phase 3 auctions through its two subsidiaries— Kal Radio and South Asia FM. “Our intent is to expand radio business and support the cause of radio reaching out to maximum people," Narayanan added.

So far, eight rounds of bidding have been completed and the bidding will resume on 28 October.

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