Over 800 FM radio stations soon: Soni

New Delhi: Over 800 more FM radio stations would be made available when the FM phase-III is rolled out shortly, while 31 new satellite TV channels are awaiting the government`s approval, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said on Thursday.

"In the broadcast sector, 653 satellite channels had been granted permission till date and 31 are awaiting permission, while the FM Phase-III to be rolled out shortly will ensure availability of 806 radio stations across 283 cities," she said.

Soni was addressing the inaugural session of `International Colloquium on Freedom of Expression & Human Rights` organised by the Press Council of India here.

She said during the period of global recession, the print industry in India grew at a rate of 6.2 per cent despite the downward growth conditions world wide in the media industry.

"Support was provided to the different newspapers – small, medium and regional – through advertisements released by the government. This created an enabling environment within the industry especially the regional press," she said.

The growing number of newspaper readers within the country is also an indicator of the growth of regional press in different forms and dialects.

She said the newspaper-reading population in India has grown into millions over the years.

Soni said the Government is committed in ensuring level playing field for different segments of the media to promote a sustainable growth process and a robust industry.

She asked the media to avoid "sensationalism or trivialisation of issues" in pursuit of commercial interests.

"Media ought to act as an enabler, giving voice to the voiceless in order to ensure that every marginal group was heard, seen and involved in the mainstream by highlighting issues that protected and enhanced the dignity and self-esteem of such groups, hence empowering them," she said.

On some of the initiatives undertaken to ensure accountability and transparency in the government, Soni said the Right to Information Act has proved to be the single most effective instrument for empowering the common man.

She said the setting up of Community Radio Stations in remote areas had ensured people at the grassroots to get quality information on flagship programmes of the Government like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, National Rural Health Mission, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and Right to Information.

Press Council Chairman Justice G N Ray said the endeavour of the PCI was to ensure that media enjoyed utmost freedom.

However, it was necessary that the parameters of media ethics were clearly laid down.