In yet another pro-industry move, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, led by Chairman PD Vaghela, on Tuesday recommended a series of reforms for the FM radio sector including the removal of an avoidable clause on annual license fees and enabling private FM radio players to create news and current affairs programme.
If these recommendations are implemented, the radio industry will be able to increase not just its revenue but also garner improved reach through the coverage of current affairs and news.
TRAI, in its recommendation sent to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, asked to de-link the annual license fee of FM radio channels from the Non-Refundable one-time entry fee (NOTEF).
TRAI, in its recommendations, stated that the license fee should be calculated as 4% of the gross Revenue (GR) of the FM radio channel during the respective financial year.
On top of it, GST should be excluded from Gross Revenue (GR), it suggested.
The regulator has also recommended that private FM radio operators should be allowed to broadcast news and current affairs programs, limited to 10 minutes in each clock hour.
Until now, the ‘government-controlled’ Akaashvani has been the only player with the license to broadcast news and current affairs programs in an independent India.
“The program code of conduct as applicable to All India Radio for news content may also be applied to Private FM Radio channels,” stated TRAI recommendations.
In light of COVID-19-induced challenges, TRAI said that the government will also take appropriate measures to provide relief to the FM radio operators.
TRAI also suggested that the functions or features pertaining to FM radio should remain enabled and activated on all mobile handsets having the necessary hardware.
“Built-in FM radio receiver in mobile handset must not be subjected to any form of disablement or deactivation,” the recommendations mentioned.
TRAI then further said that a standing committee established by MeitY and headed by a senior officer of Joint Secretary or above level will be formed to oversee and monitor the compliance by mobile phone manufacturers (or importers).
TRAI said that the committee should include key stakeholders such as MIB, AROI, MAlT, and ICEA.
TRAI added, “An online grievance redressal portal should be provided for submitting information or complaints in case of any non-compliance as regards the enablement of FM radio functionality in such mobile handsets that have the necessary functionality for FM receivers.”
On May 11, 2022, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) sought TRAI recommendations under section 11(1)(a) of the TRAI Act, 1997 on:
Following the above and in order to discuss various issues related to FM Radio broadcasting, the TRAI held a meeting with representatives of AROI on August 5, 2022.
Representatives of AROI, inter-alia, raised issues regarding permitting private FM radio channels to broadcast independent news bulletins and making it mandatory for mobile handsets to have FM radio receivers.
After that, TRAI also issued a consultation paper on February 9, 2023, seeking comments from the stakeholders on the issues related to FM Radio Broadcasting.
The last date of submission of comments was March 9, 2023, and counter-comments March 23, 2023.
TRAI said that it received 11 comments and 9 counter-comments from stakeholders.
These comments are available on TRAI's website. In this regard, an open house discussion was also held on April 26, 2023, through online mode.