NEW DELHI, July 7 � With special incentives for the North-east, the Centre today cleared FM Phase III, envisaging extension of radio services to an estimated 227 new cities in addition to the existing 86 cities.
�The Union Cabinet approved the proposal of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to approve the policy guidelines on expansion of FM radio broadcasting services through private agencies (Phase-Ill),� said Cabinet spokesman and I & B Minister, Ambika Soni.
The new policy guideline includes special incentives for North Eastern Region and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Island territories, the minister disclosed.
The incentives provided in the policy for North Eastern States, besides J&K would make the operations viable in these areas and are expected to result in better off-take of channels. The steps taken in the new policy will bring down operational costs and improve viability in general, the I &B minister said.
A significant aspect of the new guideline is that at least 11 cities in border areas of North-east, even though having a population of less than one lakh, have been included in the list for strategic reasons and to counter cross-border propaganda, after consultation with ministries of Home Affairs and Defence, sources said.
Meanwhile, Soni outlining the new policy guideline said that private FM radio broadcasters in North-east would be required to pay half the rate of annual licence fee for an initial period of three years from the date from which the annual licence fee becomes payable and the permission period of 15 years begins.
The revised fee structure has also been made applicable for a period of three years, from the date of issuance of guidelines, to the existing operators in these States to enable them to effectively compete with the new operators, the minister said.
Apart from the fee relaxation, it is further proposed that Prasar Bharati infrastructure would be made available at half the lease rentals for similar category cities in such areas, said Soni.
The limit on the ownership of channels, at the national level, allocated to an entity has been retained at 15 per cent. However, channels allotted in Jammu & Kashmir, North Eastern States and island territories will be allowed over and above the 15 per cent national limit to incentivise the bidding for channels in such areas.