Regulators

Trai urges broadbasing of community radio licence norms

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NEW DELHI: Unfazed by a lukewarm response from the government to some of its earlier radical recommendations on broadcasting, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today suggested individuals and religious bodies should be allowed to obtain community radio licenses with riders and that such ventures be permitted to carry advertisements.

The present rules only allow educational institutions apply for community radio license and ads are a no-no.

Pointing out that community radio stations should be under Indian ownership and control, the sector regulator has said, Any legal entity, including individuals, should be eligible for grant of a community radio license.

In its recommendations on licensing issues related to community radio, Trai has further said, commercial advertising may be permitted. The rider: the duration of advertisements may be restricted to five minutes per hour of broadcast.

However, this restriction on advertising time should not apply to advertisements generated within the community and where the advertising revenue comes from one of the community members,Trai has said, hinting that such measures would help community radio ventures become financially viable.

But the regulator is against any sponsored programmes being aired via community radio stations.

Though the guidelines for community radio had been announced by former information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj over two years back with much fanfare, not much development had taken place owing to prohibitive regulations.

At present, there is only one operational such venture, which is run by the Anna University.

During the course of the consultation process for formulating recommendations on issues relating to the second phase of private FM radio broadcasting, a number of responses were received stressing on the need for

expansion of community radio.

Some of the major recommendations include the following:

-The current restriction on coverage of news and current affairs should be

    lifted.

-Religious instruction/ preaching/ proselytising should not be permitted.

-There is no need to introduce any license fee.

-The ineligibility criteria listed in part-I of the Schedule to the Broadcast Bill, 1997 should be adopted with some qualifications.

-Religious bodies engaged in socio-economic developmental activities may be allowed to hold community radio license, provided the station would be used to promote socio- economic development of the community.

-An organisation/ body should not be disqualified merely because it receives public funds, as long as the management/ control over its affairs is not in the hands of the Central/ state government.

-The ministry of home affairs should give its recommendations/ clearance within three months from the last date of filing of applications.

-A license period of five years has been recommended with a provision for revocation of the license by the Government.Government funding/ grants for community radio stations is not been recommended.

-Commercial advertising may be permitted.

-Community radio stations should be permitted to accept grants/ funds as per the provisions of FCRA.

-The programme code of All India Radio and private commercial broadcasters should be applicable to the community radio stations.

-Programmes should be in local language/ dialect only and at least 50 per cent of the content should be generated by the community for which the station has been set up.

-Community radio stations should be permitted to share the broadcast infrastructure subject to the condition that at least 50 per cent of the total broadcast time shall be utilised by the licensee to broadcast its own programmes.

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