In a set of recommendations submitted to the Government on Thursday, relating to the licensing of community radio stations, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has favoured commercial advertising and news on community radio. Trai has however disfavoured government funding of the community radio.
Trai’s recommendations are a follow-up to its consultation paper on community radio released on August 25 this year and open house discussions held by it with various stakeholders in October. TRAI has recommended that community radio should be under Indian ownership and control. Religious bodies engaged in socio-economic development activity may be allowed to have license provided the station is used to promote socio-economic development of the community. Any organisation receiving public funding but its control is not in the hands of the Government, has been recommended for the license but banned organisations and their members have been barred for holding license.
For community radio, licensing period of five years have been recommended with a provision for revocation of the license by the Government. Though Trai has not favoured government funding or grants for community radio stations, it has however recommended that they would be permitted to accept grants or funds as per the provisions of FCRA.
With regard to programming regulations, Trai has recommended that programming should be in local language/dialect and at least 50 per cent of the content should be generated by the community for which the station has been set up. The regulatory authority is however in favour of lifting current restrictions on coverage of news and current affairs. Trai has recommended that the programming code of AIR and private commercial broadcasters should be applicable to community radio stations and no religious preaching should be permitted.
One of the major recommendations of Trai relates to permitting commercial ads on community Radio. However, Trai favours restricting these ads to five minutes per hour of broadcast. This restriction on ad-time should not apply to ads generated within the community and where the ad revenue comes from one of the community members. Trai has also permitted sharing of broadcast infrastructure, subject to the condition that at least 50 per cent of total broadcast time should be utilised by the licensee to broadcast its own programme and prior approval is taken from the licensing authority.
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