After all the noise and controversy over direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting and conditional access system (CAS), it’s back to basics—-radio. Govern-ment is busy studying the international models on radio operations, both community and commercial. The one question to which bureaucrats are trying to find answers is, how can India increase the number of stations in commercial as well as community radio?
While the second phase of FM privatisation is expected to popularise commercial radio, expansion of community radio is top of the mind job for the government now. At present, series of government clearances, including an Intelli-gence Bureau investigation, needed for setting up community radio stations is understood to be the main hurdle.
For community radio, the models being studied include those in South-East Asia, UK and the US. The objective is to have hundreds of community radio stations up and running as fast as possible, just like it is in some other countries. Do a reality check, and all you have are 12 licences for community radio, even as 45 applications have been submitted. Comm-unity radio was allowed in the country middle of last year.
A senior official in the information and broadcasting ministry admitted that formalities in issuing licences are far too many in community radio. For commercial radio, he stressed the need for plurality of ownership and diversity of content.
An official of All India Radio (AIR) pointed out that even Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, which is under the I&B ministry, took eight to nine months to acquire a licence.
The various clearances needed are from the ministries of home, human resource development, I&B, and communications.
Apart from the procedural delay, there are other problems, according to the official. One, community radio is only for schools and colleges, and not for others such as non-government organisations (NGOs).
Also, one school/college is permitted to set up only one community radio station, even if it has many branches. Finally, lack of awareness about community radio is being said to be a major roadblock.