Community Radios can now cheer. After reeling under financial pressure for past few months over a five fold increase in annual spectrum and royalty fees, they would now get a complete waiver from any fee payment.
The government’s generosity comes after an intense push by the Information & Broadcasting ministry, which felt that the community radio was a very effective medium to make government’s “development agenda” reach to the people.
Given the current political turbulence at the centre and next parliamentary elections are scheduled only 16 months away the community radio could thrive by spreading the message of development. It however, took a personal intervention of Information & Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni with to try Telecom and IT Minister Kapil Sibal to get the waiver.
An official note seeking reversal of the telecom ministry’s decision to hike fees, accessed by First Post says “the decision to hike the spectrum fees for community radios by fivefold and to keep on hold allocation of frequencies will have very serious damaging repercussions on the development agenda of the government and will stifle growth of community voices. It will also defeat the agenda of inclusive growth.”
The government has given 370 licenses for community radio, out of which 132 are operational now. A telecom ministry arm, WPC had for last nine months stopped giving clearance to 166 new applicants. A senior official said it was examining whether in wake of Supreme Court’s verdict on 2G , the spectrum fees for community radio was also needed to be auctioned.
The I&B ministry had been pushy with its contention to the telecom ministry. The ministry, after all has to ensure that message of good works in turbulent times reaches to hinterland. “Community radio has been instrumental in conveying the Indian government’s developmental schemes to the last mile. Programmes on schemes raging from MANREGA to NHRM have reached to millions of new listeners because they have now been articulated in local dialects. In this sense community radio policy is no less important than any of government’s flagship programmes”, the note said.