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New Delhi: The Union cabinet on Thursday approved the auction of 683 private FM radio frequencies in 236 cities across the country under Phase III of FM radio privatization.

Two batches of electronic auctions under Phase III took place in 2015 and 2016. While 97 channels in 56 cities were sold in the first batch, 66 channels in 48 cities were sold in the second.

“It (the cabinet approval) will usher in new/enhanced experience of FM radio in more cities," said an official statement from the government.

The third batch of FM auctions will cover cities with no private FM radio presence, including cities in border areas of Jammu and Kashmir and north-east states where the population is less than 100,000, according to the government statement.

With the completion of FM Phase 3 auctions, the government is planning to cover all the 29 states and 6 out of the 7 union territories (Dadra & Nagar Haveli is the exception) by private FM radio broadcasting, which is likely to generate direct and indirect employment of more than 10,000 persons across the country.

These auctions are expected to generate an estimated revenue of more than Rs1,100 crore.

In the second batch of FM Phase 3 auction, the government had earned 200.24 crore and sold only 66 out of 266 frequencies. Many leading FM radio players had stayed away from the auction due to the high reserve prices of the frequencies, including HT Media Ltd, which runs the FM radio stations Fever and Radio Nasha. HT Media is the publisher of Hindustan Times and Mint.

The first batch of Phase 3 auction, which concluded in September 2015, had 135 channels in 69 cities on offer. The total value of sold channels was Rs1,187 crore. However, the government had made more than Rs3,000 crore from these auctions with the migration fee from 245 stations that moved from Phase 2 to Phase 3.

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