| 11 Jul 2020
Prakash Javadekar' gives Private FM channels the go-ahead to broadcast AIR news

MUMBAI: In a revolutionary decision, it was announced today that private FM channels will be able to broadcast news, however, only from All India Radio bulletins. FM channels would also have the option of sourcing the news from Press Trust of India.

During Question Hour in the Lok Sabha, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar admitted that till date, private FM channels were not allowed to broadcast news due to the existing FM radio policy. However, with the approved guidelines for FM radio Phase III, private FM stations would soon be authorised to broadcast news bulletins, provided it is in the same format.

He further added that FM channel presenters would be permitted to read out AIR news.

Javadekar, in a written reply, said "in view of the dynamic nature of news, the policy is reviewed from time to time." He went on to say that further "relaxation" will be considered once broadcasting begins and depending on the experience gained. He added that broadcasting of sporting events will be permitted as they will be looked at as non news items.

This, however, will not be applicable to live commentaries of sporting events, live coverage, announcement on civic amenities, weather, information on natural calamities and traffic.

Javadekar revealed that once Phase III is rolled out, there will be 227 new cities with FM channels, as opposed to the current 86 cities by 30 March 2015. In total, there will be 839 news channels. He added that there have also been discussions to convert some Medium Wave channels to FM channels.

Additionally, Javadekar said that the Ministry is currently reviewing the norm of starting up FM stations in cities that have a population of three lakhs. Areas that have a population of one lakh will also be permitted to have their own private FM channels.

However, Javadekar's reply on the issue has not been met with complete enthusiasm. Entertainment Network India Limited (ENIL) MD and CEO Prashant Panday said, "This was not a new policy announcement by the new govt. It was merely a reply given by the honourable minister to a question asked in parliament about the current policy. He merely stated what the current policy was - the Phase III policy as announced by the previous government. We are awaiting the new policy announcement from the minister."

Former RJ, Simran Kohli added, "I am not very happy. I think it is a time buying tactic because you only have the option to air selected news. Radio stations had already started broadcasting news, but in a different format. With this, you do not have the freedom to choose what you want to broadcast because every radio station has a different personality. Just because radio is not as strong an arm as television, there is this kind of discrimination."

Radio City CEO Apurva Purohit said, "What the minister has announced is just a reiteration of the proposed policy for Phase III. Broadcasting the news content exactly from the AIR bulletin is not going to add much value to the existing content. 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."