Decision on community radio postponed again

BY hoot desk| IN Community Media | 06/10/2005
A final decision on the contours of community radio policy for India has been referred to a group of ministers.

Hoot Desk                                            

In a cabinet meeting the UPA government today considered a proposal to approve phase II of the implementation of community radio in the country and decided to refer the matter to a Group Of Ministers. Jaipal Reddy, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting who will head the GOM said that hopefully it would arrive at a decision in a few weeks time. The ministers in the group will consist of Sharad Pawar, Minister of Agriculture, Dayanidhi Maran, Minister for Communications, Mr Reddy himself, and possibly the finance minister and a couple of others. Only the three mentioned have so far been named. 

In Phase II the plan is to allow both non governmental organisations as well as civil society groups to get licences to start radio stations. The matter on which there was a difference of opinion in the cabinet was on allowing such stations to have a revenue stream, and on the question of the range of broadcast to be permitted. Mr Reddy said that whereas he, Mr Pawar  and  the finance minister Mr Chidambaram were of the view that some revenue stream should be allowed, others differed because these will not be paying licence fees like the FM stations. Mr Reddy said his proposal was for permitting five minutes of advertising per hour and some sponsored programming. He said the first phase of community radio had failed to take off because no revenue stream had been permitted.

On the question of approvals, applications from NGOs and civil society bodies for licences will have to be decided within three months and will be referred to the ministry of home affairs for its comments. However, failing clearance before that, at the end of three months a committee of officials from all the concerned ministries  headed by an official from information and broadcasting will take a final view. No ministry will be allowed to stall a proposal indefinitely, he said.

Theoretically the number of frequencies available is huge, but a decision on the range to be permitted will have to be taken to know exactly how many frequencies will become available. Political news and current affairs will not be permitted, but informative broadcasts aimed at various community users will be.

It would seem that the long wait for a viable policy on community radio, just got longer.

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