The government is working on a satellite radio policy under which broadcasting news and current affairs programmes will be permitted, though with several restrictions.
Satellite radio companies with news content will be allowed foreign direct investment of up to 26 per cent. They must have resident Indians as CEO, chief financial officer and chief marketing officer.
No news and current affairs channel will be allowed on the satellite radio platform if it does not have Indian advertising and content designed for Indian audiences. Stand-alone international radio channels or a channel cleared by any other country's regulatory authority will not be permitted either.
This means that foreign radio companies like BBC Radio and Australian Broadcasting Corporation will not be able to operate until they form an Indian joint venture.
The government does not have a clear satellite radio policy and there is only one player, WorldSpace that operates from India. WorldSpace is bound by the programme code guidelines of All India Radio and is not permitted to run news channels. As a result, it runs an audio version of TV news channels like CNN, BBC, Fox and NDTV, amongst others.
This move is being seen as a step towards allowing news and current affairs on private FM radio channels in India.
"Once news is allowed on satellite radio, the same guidelines can be applied to FM radio channels too. This has been a long-standing demand and will have a positive impact on both listenership as well as advertising revenue in a big way," said Rajiv Mishra, president of Association of Radio Operators in India.
Private FM radio companies also expect to get the government's approval to raise the foreign direct investment cap from 20 to 26 per cent soon.
While satellite radio runs on subscription revenue, private FM radio channels (about 280 channels will be launched by August) are only dependent on advertising revenue.
This year, about Rs 480-500 crore worth of advertising revenue is expected from FM radio companies. With news being allowed on FM stations, industry expects over 50 per cent growth in advertising revenue, industry sources said.