A historic judgment by the Supreme Court in February 1995 paved the way for private players to operate in radio and television broadcasting. After this judgment, Government’s monopoly on airwaves ceased to exist.
Campaigns for community radio in India also gained momentum in the wake of this landmark judgment. A UNESCO sponsored workshop, hosted by an Andhra Pradesh NGO, Deccan Development Society (DDS) from July 17-20, 2000 in Hyderabad issued the ‘Pastapur Initiative’ on community radio that urged the government to take its intentions of freeing broadcasting from state monopoly to its logical conclusion, by making media space available not only to private players but also to communities.
In December 2002, the Government of India approved a policy for the grant of licenses for setting up of Community Radio Stations to well established educational institutions including IITs/IIMs.
An organisation desirous of operating a Community Radio Station (CRS) must be able to satisfy and adhere to the following principles:
- Only a non-profit orgnisation having a proven record of at least three years of service to the local community is entitled to get community radio license
- A community radio provider is supposed to serve a well-defined local community
- Ownership and management structure of a community radio service (CRS) should be reflective of the community it is going to cater to
- Community radio must broadcast programmes like educational, developmental, social and cultural needs of the community
- A CRS must get itself registered with Societies Act or any relevant Act
- Civil societies and voluntary organisations, ICAR institutions, State Agriculture Universities (SAUs), Krishi Vigyan Kendras, Registered Societies and autonomous bodies and public trusts are eligible to apply for community license service
- Under education sector, individuals, political parties, students union, women’s union, trade union, profit making organisation are not eligible for CRS
Selection Process & Processing
- Union Information & Broadcasting ministry (I&B) invites applications for CRS once every year through advertisements on leading national dailies; however, that does not bar eligible organisations and educational institutions from applying during the intervening period between the two advertisements
- The applicants shall be required to apply in the prescribed application form along with a processing fee of Rs.2500/- and the applications shall be processed in the following manner:
a) A single window clearance is in place for applications coming from universities, deemed universities and government run educational institutions; they don’t have to get separate clearance from Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Human Research Development
b) Rest of the applicants, including private education institutions, will get letter of intent (LOI) once their applications are cleared by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Defence and HRD
- In the event of more than one applicant for a single frequency at a given place, the successful applicant will be selected for issue of LOI from amongst the applicants by the Committee constituted under the Chairmanship of Secretary (I&B) on the basis of their standing in the community, the commitment shown, the objectives enunciated and resources likely to be mobilized by the applicant organisation as well as its credentials and number of years of community service rendered by the organisation
- Within one month of the issue of the Letter of Intent (LOI) the eligible applicant will be required to apply, in the prescribed format and with the requisite fee, to the WPC Wing of the Ministry of Communication & IT, Sanchar Bhawan, New Delhi for frequency allocation & SACFA clearance.
Grant of Permission
- Applicants will get license for the period of five years
- No applicant can transfer its license to another party
- If the permission holder fails to commence its operation with three months of the approval, or shuts down its operation within three months of the commencement of operation, its license will be revoked and frequency will be alloted to the next eligible applicant
- Eligible operator will have to furnish a bank guarantee for a sum of Rs 25,000-/; the permission holder will not be able to get back the amount if it fails to start service within the stipulated period
Content Regulation & Monitoring
- Community radio service must give emphasis to contents related to developmental, agricultural, health, educational, environmental, social welfare, community development and cultural programmes
- At least 50% of content shall be generated with the participation of the local community, for which the station has been set up.
- Programmes should preferably be in the local language and dialect
- The Permission Holder shall not broadcast any programmes, which relate to news and current affairs and are otherwise political in nature.
- Other restrictions imposed on the CRS include no offensive content, no criticism of friendly countries, no attack on religions or communities, no obscene, defamatory content