afaqs! news bureau

"Activate built-in FM radio receivers in mobile handsets": TRAI

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a set of recommendations to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) for radio. 

Taking cognisance of several developments that have hampered the business of radio in the country, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a series of recommendations to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) on September 5.

As mobile handsets has emerged to be one of the most preferred devices for content consumption in India, it has become imperative for media businesses to be available on them. But FM radio services are often not accessible on mobile devices.

At the recently held afaqs! Media Brand Awards, Nisha Narayanan, COO and director, RED FM, told Sreekant Khandekar, co-founder and CEO, afaqs!, "There’s a strong lobby of manufacturers who are not allowing FM (on smartphones) for various commercial and business reasons. It is not fair in a country like India, where FM consumption is quite high. Today, if you visit a store to buy a radio set, it is not available. So, how do you consume radio? The best way is to have it on phones."

The same has been one of the major complaints of the 388 operational private FM radio channels. Taking account of this, the authority has recommended that 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 authority said in its recommendations.

The authority also recommends that MeitY also set up a standing committee, headed by a senior officer of Joint Secretary or above level, to oversee and monitor the compliance of enabling FM radio in mobile handsets by phone manufacturers (or importers). The committee should include key stakeholders such as MIB, AROI, MAIT, and ICEA.

Also Read: It is more important to stay relevant as a brand, rather than medium: RED FM’s Nisha Narayanan

Further, TRAI also recommends the setting up of an online grievance redressal portal. The portal will allow companies to submit information or complaints in case of any noncompliance with the enablement of FM radio functionality in mobile handsets.

The authority has also recommended that FM radio operators should be allowed to broadcast news and current affairs programs, limited to 10 minutes in each clock hour.

The program code of conduct that is applicable to All India Radio for news content may also be applied to private FM radio channels.

It is of the view that private FM broadcasters should be allowed to broadcast news and current affairs bulletins independent of AIR. "Allowing private FM stations to include news and current affairs is expected to foster a more pluralistic media landscape," it said. 

Further, the TRAI recommends that the annual license fee of a FM radio channel should be delinked from Non-Refundable One Time Entry Fee (NOTEF).

The license fee should be calculated as 4% of the Gross Revenue (GR) of the FM radio channel during the respective financial year. GST should be excluded from Gross Revenue (GR).

In 2015, the NOTEF for channels in Delhi stood at over Rs 33 crores, Rs 36 crores in Mumbai, and over Rs 12 crores in Chennai, as per media reports. TRAI observes that this amount exceeded the revenue aggregated by FM companies in 2020–21.

It also recommends that the government take appropriate measures to provide relief to FM radio operators to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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