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Private FM radio to broadcast AIR news in unchanged format: Prakash Jayadekar
MUMBAI: The issue of private FM radio stations being allowed to broadcast news has been a major point of debate for months now. Putting all speculations to rest, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar today stated that private FM channels will be allowed to air news bulletins from All India Radio (AIR), but in exactly the same format.
Javadekar also mentioned that instead of putting audio clips of news sourced from AIR, the ministry was exploring the option of the FM radio presenter to read out the exact news matter in his or her voice.
Javadekar further stated that broadcast pertaining to certain categories like information regarding sporting events, traffic and weather, coverage of cultural events, festivals, coverage of topics such as examination results, admissions, career counselling, availability of employment opportunities, public announcement pertaining to civic amenities, electricity, water supply and natural calamities, health alerts as provided by local administration will be treated as non-news and current affairs broadcast and will, therefore, be permissible in the FM news.
Addressing questions on FM radio in the Lok Sabha, Javadekar said that the issue of allowing news on private FM radio is sensitive as there was no policy on this earlier, and this provision is being made for the first time.
Earlier when private FM channels were allowed, it was in the first tranche in 2000 and at that time only 21 channels came up. More channels came after the second phase. The third phase is on now and by 30 March 2015, the country will have FM channels in 227 new cities from the present 86 cites. There will be 839 new channels as per the Phase III policy.
Monitoring a large number of channels will not be an easy task for the ministry, and hence it is exploring the option of only allowing news through AIR. The minister also said that since the earlier decision was taken by the Cabinet, any relaxations in the policy will have to be done by it.
He stated that with trial they can always change the guidelines as they gain experience. There is the issue of whether they should be monitored or not, but there are other issues as well.
Javadekar also spoke about Aakashvani as the pride of the country, which relays information to various parts of the country in the most effective way. The ministry is also working towards a solution for those FM channels whose transmission in the MW band is not good, he added.
Moreover, with the FM Phase III policy allowing for more radio stations in towns with one lakh population, it will see a deeper penetration into smaller towns and a greater expansion of the medium.
Javadekar stressed that access to information is people’s right. Therefore, the number of private FM and other channels is being extended. However, any further relaxation in the broadcast of news on private FM channels will be done on the basis of experience gained.