Govt clears guidelines for FM Phase III expansion; licences likely to be auctioned in two batches

Private channels allowed to broadcast news from AIR. Govt considering allowing general news also

New Delhi: The government today cleared guidelines for the much-delayed FM Radio Phase III expansion that will allow private radio channels to broadcast news of All India Radio and enable revenue generation of Rs1,733 crore from the auction of license for services in 227 cities.

A meeting of the Cabinet chaired by prime minister Manmohan Singh also approved hiking the foreign investment limit for private FM radio broadcasting companies to 26% from the current 20%, PTI reports.

"The FM Phase-III policy extends FM radio services to about 227 new cities, in addition to the present 86 cities with a total of 839 new FM radio channels," information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni told journalists.

She said the FM phase III policy will result in coverage of all cities with a population of more than one lakh through private FM channels.

"Through the auction of licences in the FM Phase III expansion, the government is expecting Rs1,733 crore of income," Ms Soni said.

The Phase I and Phase II policies have resulted in a total revenue accrual of about Rs1,733 crore up to 31 May 2011 by way of one-time entry fee, migration fee and annual fee among others.

The minister said the private FM channels will now be allowed to carry news items from AIR which was not permitted before.

Asked why news from agencies has not been allowed to be broadcast when even AIR is sourcing from newswires, she said, "I don't rule it out. When greater liberalisation takes place in time to come, it may be considered. It depends on what various ministries say and how the system functions."

Asked why private broadcasters have not been allowed to air their own news, she said, "Gradually we are allowing news on private radio stations and let's see how it goes forward."

In order to roll out the new stations the government will conduct e-auction of licences in batches and the number of batches will be decided by the I&B ministry. "In all probability, the e-auction will be held in two batches and the process is expected to be completed within this financial year," a senior I&B ministry official said.

Ms Soni said the I&B ministry will appoint an independent expert agency to conduct the e-auction.

Describing the highlights of the policy, the minister said: "FDI and FII investment in a private FM broadcasting company has been increased from 20% to 26%."
According to the new policy that has taken nearly three years to materialise, FM radio operators will be permitted to air news bulletins of AIR in an unedited format.

Moreover, non-news broadcasts pertaining to information on sporting events, traffic and weather, cultural events, festivals, examinations results, admissions, career counselling and employment opportunities among others have also been allowed.


HC directs West Bengal govt to file affidavit on Tata Motors opposition to Singur Land Act

Court asks government to file affidavit by 11th July and Tata Motors to reply by 13th July

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court today directed the West Bengal government to file an affidavit in opposition to the Tata Motors' prayer for amendment to its original petition challenging the Singur Land Development and Rehabilitation Act, 2011.

Justice Saumitra Pal directed the state government to file its opposition by 11th July and asked Tata Motors to file its reply by 13th July.

Tata Motors had in its original petition moved on 22nd June, stated that it apprehended the Singur land leased out to it would be taken possession of by the state and prayed for status quo. But the state opposed this, submitting that the land had already been taken possession of on 21st June, when the notification of the Singur Act was published, and as such the petition was flawed, PTI reports.

Tata Motors' counsels, moving the amendment application before the court, prayed that it be heard 'in-camera'. With the state counsels agreeing, judge Pal directed that he would hear both sides in his chamber.

After a 20-minute hearing, the court asked both the parties to file affidavits and directed that the issue would be taken up on 14th July, along with the hearing of the main petition challenging the Act.

The Supreme Court had stayed the distribution of land at Singur to 'unwilling farmers' till the High Court disposed the main petition.


FM: Food inflation, fuel prices still reason for concern

Pranab Mukherjee expects inflationary pressures to continue due to higher fuel prices

New Delhi: While the food and fuel inflation figures announced today have shown signs of easing, union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that inflationary pressures are likely to continue due to the increase in rates of petroleum products a fortnight ago.

"There is inflationary pressure in the system and these weekly variations (in food inflation numbers) are mainly because of the base effect," Mr Mukherjee said.

He said the overall inflation in June could see some upward movement, from the 9.06% recorded in May, mainly on account of the fuel price hike announced on 24th June, PTI reports.

The 7.61% rise in prices of food items for the week ended 25th June is the lowest since the week ended 7th May when food inflation was at 7.47%.

On a weekly basis the index on fuel and power rose to 166.3 points from 160.2 points in the previous week. Overall fuel and power inflation stood at 12.67%.

"This six points increase is mainly because of enhancement of prices of diesel, kerosene and LPG. That has its impact," Mr Mukherjee said.

While experts said the softening of price rise is likely to continue as the monsoon progresses, the price rise of fuel could affect the overall trend.

They also said that the fuel price hike may spill over into the food segment in the form of higher transportation costs for grains and other crops.


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