Mumbai : The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has recommended to the government that radio being a free to air medium for masses should not be restricted in terms of sourcing of news and information.
According to current policy regulation, broadcasters will be permitted to carry the news bulletins of All India Radio (AIR) in exactly same format unaltered.
FICCI says that radio should be considered as the primary medium for dissemination of information at national and local level to assist in formation of pluralistic opinions and higher awareness amongst listeners.
In the current age of internet access and converged media platforms, access to news and information has become unrestricted and under Phase III, the medium will penetrate deeper into newer cities, so radio industry should be liberalized to broadcast independent debates and local news sourced from any wire services, or independently, as they desire. Standard rules of checks and balances as applicable to other news media should apply to FM radio as well.
The industry body also advocated a removal of cap on ownership of radio licenses to allow national players and strong regional players to consolidate operations, bring in economies of scale, reach grass roots level and acquire more frequencies.
Currently, a license holder cannot run more than 40 percent of the total channels in a city subject to three different operators in the city and no entity shall hold permission for more than 15 percent of all channels allotted in the country excluding channels located in Jammu and Kashmir, North Eastern States and island territories.
The Industry believes that there may have been sufficient rationale for such restrictions when the Radio Industry was in its infancy stage.
However, as the Industry has matured, it is right time that such regressive regulations can be removed to allow the Industry players to scale up their operations and technologies.
FICCI also recommends waiving the condition for three-year lock-in period for new allotments done in Phase III to the existing radio broadcasters as such broadcasters have already served the lock-in period in earlier phases.
The current policy mandates that the shareholding of the largest Indian shareholder in a radio broadcasting company cannot be reduced below 51% till a period of 3 years from the date on which all the channels allotted to the company holding permission were operationalized.
It also recommended removal of Service Tax on advertisements on radio to provide it with a level playing field with other media.