New Delhi: The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry on Monday amended the policy guidelines for community radio stations in India, notifying the rules for licence extension/renewal and allowing the players to broadcast news and current affairs, sourced exclusively from state-owned All India Radio (AIR).
Community radio stations (CRS) are operated by local communities or organizations for development communication. Currently, India has 200 operational community radio stations across the country.
The I&B ministry has broadly accepted recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) submitted in 2014, which had proposed that the period of permission should be extended for five years at a time and the CRS players should be allowed to air news sourced from AIR in its original form or translated into the local language/ dialect.
The existing community radio station guidelines issued in 2006, are silent on licence renewal/extension mechanism. So far, the community radio players were not allowed to air news or current affairs.
Furthermore, the ministry has also relaxed ad rate rules for community radio stations which said that a station cannot charge lower than directorate of advertising and visual publicity (DAVP) ad rate of Rs4 per second from any local advertiser.
According to the existing guidelines, “community radio stations will undertake in writing that DAVP approved rates accepted by them are their lowest rates and exclusive to DAVP and cannot be offered to any other agency. DAVP reserves the right to review empanelment rates if this condition is violated,” the 2006 guidelines said—a clause which now has been removed from the amended guidelines.
“In addition, limited advertising and announcements relating to local events, local businesses and services and employment opportunities shall be allowed. The maximum duration of such limited advertising will be restricted to seven minutes per hour of broadcast,” the ministry said in the order.
The ministry has also notified a list of content categories which will classify as non-news and current affairs for community radio players. The list includes information pertaining to traffic, weather, sporting events and coverage of local events among others.
According to a written reply submitted in the Rajya Sabha by minister of state for I&B Rajyavardhan Rathore in July 2016, the ministry has received 747 applications in the last three financial years for setting up community radio stations, out of which 62 were issued letters of intent, while 474 applications were rejected.