Campaign urges government to review Community Radio policy

BANGALORE: A petition signed by the national campaign group cr-India has urged the union government to immediately clarify its stand on Community Radio. 

The group feels that community radio should be expanded to other sectors in order to unleash potential of radio for community development and empowerment of marginalised groups in rural areas.

This would create a three-tier system of broadcasting in India, with clearly demarcated public, private and community sectors, as in many other democracies, the group points out in an official release.

Though the government of India, in 2003, announced "guidelines for community radio", it was limited to "established educational institutions". Now a draft policy on community radio in India is awaiting approval by the Union Cabinet. In early October, the Cabinet referred it to a Group of Ministers (GoM) for further discussion.

More than 50,000 people from around the country, including academics, activists, civil society organizations, and rural communities, have joined hands in the campaign to form Cr-India. The group is now seeking an appointment with the prime minister to submit a petition requesting an immediate solution.

The community radio movement draws its inspiration and legitimacy from the landmark judgement in 1995 by the Supreme Court of India that declared the airwaves to be public property, to be used for public good and in public interest. In a highly selective interpretation of that judgment, the government embarked on a path of privatisation of airwaves allowing private FM radio stations to be set up by corporate entities.

Even as this process is continuing unabated, the Government is hesitating to open up the airwaves for grassroots communities on the basis of unfounded concerns about the security and sovereignty of the nation, states the release.

While waiting for a legal framework to be put in place by the Government, rural communities in Karnataka Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Jharkhand India have been running highly successful community radio projects, by either narrowcasting or using limited space available on All India Radio. Other grassroots organizations are waiting eagerly for a community radio policy so that they can initiate similar projects in their regions, the release adds.

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