afaqs!

Ministries prepare for third round of radio licences

By Justin Thomas , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | November 18, 2008
The I&B ministry is in consultations with the C&IT ministry for the availability of frequencies

Preparations & #BANNER1 & # are under way in various government ministries for the third round of radio licensing. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has asked the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (C&IT) for the availability of frequencies.

Speaking to afaqs! about the development, an informed source in the I&B ministry says, "Since we plan to give licences for Tier D towns and small cities in the next round, we have asked the C&IT ministry to provide us with the required frequencies." The request is being processed and the source adds that it will take at least two-three weeks to get the exact availability.

It is learnt that the ministry is eager to provide licences in Category C and D towns. They were covered in the second round of licencing, however they were not in sufficient numbers. Though private radio operators will definitely look into operational viability in such places, government is hoping that the next round of licensing will see aggressive bidders which will ensure that radio reaches maximum number of people.

Once the ministry gets a clear view on the frequencies, the policy will be prepared and finetuned. Subsequently, it will be passed on to various ministries such as the Ministry of Law and to the Prime Minister's Office. Possible suggestions and modifications may then be incorporated. After this, a cabinet note will be prepared by the ministry, which will be passed on to the cabinet secretary for presentation to the cabinet.

Given the functioning of the government machinery, the time period for the announcement of the policy could not be ascertained. Sources, however, gave a tentative date in the first quarter of 2009.

One factor which could have an adverse impact on the completion of the procedure is the announcement of the forthcoming general elections. Currently, 241 private radio stations are operating in the country and the I&B ministry intends to give out licences for around 700 more, including 350-400 from Tier D towns.