Trai to issue consultation paper on community radio in one month

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will bring out a separate consultation paper on community radio within the next two weeks.

The Trai which held an open forum in Mumbai on Saturday to address issues related to the second phase of private FM radio which will be opened up shortly, said community radio has several issues of its own that need to be addressed separately. The Trai, which has been holding open fora in Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai this week, has called for suggestions from interested parties on community radio within a week from now.

The information and broadcasting ministry has received several applications since licensees for community radio were thrown open to the public a year ago. However, owing to the tedious clearance procedure, hardly any licensees have been granted, admits TRAI chairman Pradeep Baijal. The consultation paper will attempt to offer a more simple procedure for the clearing of applications, which should open the gates for a flood of community radio stations, says Baijal.

Currently, despite the government's announcement of the community radio spectrum, only one community radio station is operational at the Anna University in Chennai. Trai advisor Rakesh Kacker, who was also present at the forum, said the focus of the consultation paper would be on getting more non educational institutions to start community radio stations. So far, the government had allowed only educational institutions to operate low power community radio stations.

While community radio stations can be started with a very low cost of infrastructure and require no license fees to be paid to the government, they need to put in place their own sources of revenue and are not allowed to hawk commercial air time.

Community radio, which has caught on big time in several countries worldwide, continues to be a non starter in India due to the complex rules of application and clearance by the various agencies involved. The Trai consultation paper should hopefully provide the answers to the vexed issue.

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