Dec 5, 2008

India - I&B ministry to continue with city based bidding for private FM

In its earlier recommendations, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B ministry) to change the geographical basis for private FM radio bidding from the city to the district. The ministry now says that there are operational problems in following the TRAI recommendation.

The I&B ministry was already in consultation with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology over the distribution of frequencies, as reported earlier by afaqs! There is lack of clarity on how a district should be categorised and there is a wide variation in the area, size and shape of each district.

The I&B ministry says that if a city is located in a corner of the district, then the signals will interfere with the signals of the neighbouring district. Even the current city-based model offers only 10-12 frequencies in a city. In the district-based model, the number will dip even lower if the frequencies being used in the neighbouring districts are to be avoided.

The I&B ministry asserts that frequency planning will become a major physical exercise and one that is extremely difficult to conduct. The presence of the high-power transmitters of All India Radio will further reduce the availability of frequencies, thereby exacerbating the problem.

However, the I&B ministry adds that in some cities, which have a population of less than one lakh and where Prasar Bharati infrastructure is available, the district-based model can be taken up. The number of FM channels in such cities is most likely to be kept at two. Similar places in Jammu and Kashmir, in the Northeast and on islands can be taken up irrespective of the availability of Prasar Bharati infrastructure

In its reply, TRAI says that the government has pointed out certain implications of changing the licensing system to district level licensing. The continuation of city level licensing is acceptable to the regulator in the larger interest of expediting the process.

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